No Rocky-Mountain air helped Carlos Gonzalez rake a 5-5 night with two HR’s against the Cubs in Chicago Tuesday. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Carlos Gonzalez righted the Rockies after a team-wide slump and, for a change, gave the baseball world a reason to talk about offense.
Amidst continued pitching dominance, nightly threats of no-hitters, rampant low-scoring and abundant strikeouts -- and debates regarding the state of umpiring in baseball -- Gonzalez changed the conversation by turning in the best offensive performance of the first quarter of the season, going 5-for-5 with two home runs as Colorado beat the Cubs 9-4 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. He was a triple shy of the cycle.
The Rockies were reeling with five losses in six games, and the offense was slumping, having eclipsed three runs in only one of its last eight games. In years past, it hasn’t always mattered if Colorado scored or not, because a weak pitching staff ensured that it could lose no matter the run total, but that hasn’t been the case this season. The Rockies are now 17-1 when scoring five or more runs.
Gonzalez’s performance was only the third five-hit game by any major leaguer this season, following the Indians’ Carlos Santana and the Royals’ Billy Butler. Gonzalez’s was the only two-homer game of the three, making it a rare treat: in the past 15 seasons there have been 50 instances of a player having five hits and two homers, which is just more than three per year.
The three instances in 2012 were turned in by then-Ranger Josh Hamilton (5-for-5, 4 HRs on May 8), the Orioles’ J.J. Hardy (5-for-8, 2 HRs on May 6) and the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson (5-for-5, 3 HRs on April 19) -- who coincidentally made his season debut on Tuesday after missing the first six weeks with a fractured forearm.
It was also CarGo’s 14th multi-hit game this year, and the Rockies are 12-2 in those games, showing how important the 27-year-old leftfielder is to driving their offense.
Gonzalez seemed destined for superstardom in 2010 when he won a batting title with a .336 average, to go along with 34 homers, 117 RBIs and a .974 OPS that helped him finish third in the NL MVP voting. His ’11 and ’12 seasons were good -- .889 and .881 OPS, respectively -- but he averaged only 24 homers those years and missed 62 total games. After Tuesday’s mashing, he’s back up to a .967 OPS this year, and his nine home runs in 39 games extrapolate to a 37-homer season.
And, for once, the night’s standout hero wasn’t a pitcher flirting with a no-hitter but a slugger who couldn’t be kept in the ballpark.