© 2012 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
DENVER -- The hits Sunday in Cincinnati were loud. One sailed all the way to the back of the visiting bullpen, which is perpendicular to the right-field fence, at Great American Ball Park. The other screamed, laser-like, over the right-field wall.
Ultimately, however, two of Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez's best shots were barely heard because Colorado lost, 7-5.
Gonzalez belongs on any list of baseball's hottest hitters. Heading into Wednesday's third game of a series with the Astros, Gonzalez is hitting .309 and leading the Rockies in home runs with 10 and RBIs with 37. His three games with three home runs match Carlos Beltran for the most in the National League this year. Gonzalez has had multiple hits in 18 of his 45 games this season. Yet this production will be considered quiet production until the Rockies win consistently.
This month, Gonzalez has heated up to the tune of .314 with six home runs, a .385 on-base percentage and 19 RBIs, but Colorado is just 6-18. Before a bright Monday, when the Rockies swept a doubleheader from the Astros (with Gonzalez going 4-for-9), he admitted having a hard time truly enjoying his production.
"It's difficult, because you want to do well, but at the end of the day, you want to win," Gonzalez said. "It's hard not being able to win. You can't celebrate what you did in the batter's box. I feel good because I continue to play well, and I'll continue to do things for my team, try to make something happen.
"Then the days when you don't do anything and still lose, it's really hard. You want to at least contribute and give your team a chance."
Gonzalez is in a group of stellar Rockies offensive players who are obscured by the struggles of the pitching staff. But his production on an individual basis is hard to ignore.
"There's not been a whole lot mentioned about Carlos Gonzalez, but from what I've seen, and we're about at the quarter-pole of the season, if that were to continue for three more quarters, those would be some type of impressive numbers when we cross the finish line," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Start adding them up. That's on pace to do some very serious damage."
Gonzalez is part of the reason the Rockies aren't ready to concede that this will be a lost season. There is plenty of production around him.
Leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler is showing signs of overcoming an early slump and turning hot for an extended period, a pattern that his previous two seasons have taken. Behind Gonzalez, two-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is on an eight-game hit streak. Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer also have overcome recent slumps, which means the Rockies could have the deep, potent order they planned on with several offseason moves.
"We're not even close to where we could be," Gonzalez said. "There are so many good players on our club. It's not happening the way we want yet.
"I can play better than the way I'm playing. 'Tulo' can play better; he's getting hotter, and he's going to get even hotter. Same thing with Todd, Cuddy and the guys at the top of the order -- Dexter and Marco [Scutaro]."
Gonzalez includes defense as an area where he can improve.
Gonzalez, a Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner in 2010, had a good argument for one last year (playing significant time in all three positions in a year when the outfield award voting was divided by position for the first time), but he admitted having some difficulty adjusting to left field, where Tracy has decided to keep him this year.
This year, Gonzalez has two errors, which matches his career high for a season. There has been some bad luck. One of the errors was a ball he lost in the lights at Coors Field, and there were consecutive fly balls in Pittsburgh that he lost in the sun. Those were not ruled errors, and players on both sides said the game -- the second game of a doubleheader, played late in the afternoon -- was played at a difficult time in terms of sun positioning.
There were also a couple of early-season fly balls that landed near the wall that appeared catchable, but Gonzalez stopped well short of the fence. He said he's finally becoming accustomed to his new permanent position.
"It's weird," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm a little bird in the cage. Sometimes I feel I want to run down balls more, but in left field there's not enough time or not enough room to run. The balls are hard and not very high, not a lot of time to go get the ball.
"Now that I'm playing every day, my rhythm is getting better and I'm reading balls better. Early in the year, I was learning to read balls off the bat."
Tracy felt it was best to keep Gonzalez in left, where he doesn't have to cover as much ground as in right or center, to save his legs. Also, Gonzalez lost significant time last season to wrist injuries suffered running into walls, and keeping him in one spot allows him to thoroughly know each park he visits. As far as Tracy is concerned, Gonzalez will excel in any position where "there's green grass under his feet."
Gonzalez has a batting title (2010) and a Gold Glove, plus a postseason appearance with the Rockies in 2010. All that has eluded him is the All-Star Game. He was a Final Vote contender in 2010.
It's a nice goal, but with the Rockies trying to climb back into the NL West race, it's a hard one for him to consider.
"I'll tell you what, I don't pay a lot of attention to the All-Star Game, because it's not something you're thinking about winning as a player," Gonzalez said. "If the fans support me and give me that ticket, that's wonderful. If I get the opportunity to go, I'll definitely enjoy it, but our job is to win on the field."