Gonzalez, Colorado hand Reds third straight loss

Published 1:46 am Wednesday, September 8, 2010

DENVER — Carlos Gonzalez is hearing something other than the crack of his bat at home plate in Coors Field.

Colorado Rockies fans have started paying homage to the outfielder, chanting “M-V-P” in recognition of his memorable season.

Gonzalez hit a three-run homer to help the rolling Rockies beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive win.

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Gonzalez’s homer in the opening inning was his 32nd of the season and gave him 100 RBIs. He’s in prime position to challenge for the NL Triple Crown, leading in average (.340), taking over the top spot in RBIs and vaulting into a third-place tie with Joey Votto and Mark Reynolds in homers.

These day, the best way to pitch to Gonzalez may be to not pitch to him at all.

“What we’re watching and witnessing right now offensively, obviously for a kid in the early stage of his career that he’s in, it’s something special. There’s no question about it,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

And it doesn’t end with his offense. The player teammates refer to as “CarGo” also has quite the left arm, demonstrating that in the fifth when he raced over in left to scoop up a ball, twirled and fired a strike to second to nip Brandon Phillips as he tried to stretch a single into extra bases.

His scorching play is definitely rubbing off on the Rockies.

Led by Gonzalez’s breakout season, the Rockies have climbed back into the thick of the wild card race. They’re now 4 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves, who were passed up in the NL East by Philadelphia on Tuesday. They’re also 4 1/2 behind San Diego in the NL West.

“We’re not done yet,” said Gonzalez, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games. “I’m happy I got to 100, but there’s more to come. We need to concentrate and do our best right now.”

Cincinnati dropped its third straight, but still maintained a six-game lead over St. Louis, which lost to Milwaukee 4-2.

“Fortunately for us we didn’t lose any ground,” Red manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s one less day on the schedule. We need to win these next two games.”

Jhoulys Chacin (8-9) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings for Colorado. The rookie right-hander has been stellar of late, turning in four consecutive outings of two earned runs or less.

“I felt really good out there,” he said. “My fastball was really good today.”

Johnny Cueto (12-5) was back with the Reds after missing a few days to attend the funeral of a family member in the Dominican Republic. The righty made an early mistake to Gonzalez but then settled in, lasting six innings and giving up four runs, three earned.

“It was tough, but I don’t take those things into the game,” Cueto said through an interpreter. “What happened, happened. I have it in my heart. And when I go there (the mound), I put my best in my job. This is my job.”

Miguel Olivo drove in what proved to be the decisive run with an RBI double in the sixth. The inning was set up when the normally sure-handed Phillips booted Seth Smith’s two-out grounder to second.

A hustling Votto paved the way for a two-run fourth inning.

With two outs and two on, Ramon Hernandez hit a grounder to third baseman Melvin Mora, who tried to beat Votto to the bag instead of throwing to first. Votto was safe by a step and Drew Stubbs followed with a two-run single just over the head of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, cutting the deficit to 3-2.

Gonzalez got the Rockies going early, hitting a drive to left after Eric Young Jr. and Dexter Fowler led off with singles.

An inning later, with runners on second and third and two outs, the Reds elected to intentionally walk Gonzalez — a ploy that paid off as Tulowitzki grounded out to end the threat.

That’s the way teams may start pitching to Gonzalez, especially with Gonzalez seeing the ball so well.

“Not every at bat,” he said, grinning. “If I feel the same way every at bat, I’d be a machine.”

NOTES: Reds OF Jay Bruce (right side strain) took 50 swings in the indoor batting cage and is scheduled to take batting practice Wednesday. He probably won’t play in the series with the Rockies, but may over the weekend against Pittsburgh. … Rockies LHP Jeff Francis (shoulder soreness) threw a light bullpen session Tuesday.