That creeping sound tip-toeing behind the Rockies and into Coors Field on Friday conveyed trouble. The upstart Milwaukee Brewers, winners of four in a row, had climbed close enough to whisper a threat at Colorado’s standing in a wild-card chase.
Carlos Gonzalez knows the score. He is the lone remaining player from the Rockies’ last trip to the postseason, in 2009. And when the veteran slugger looked out from the batters box at a wide-open lane to left field in the fifth inning, where a simple bunt would put him on base, Gonzalez chose instead a bolder swing.
Gonzalez’s line drive home run to left field in the Rockies’ 8-4 victory over the Brewers helped kick off a critical weekend series for a team bearing down for an extended fight. The best record in club history will ultimately fall hollow if Colorado crumbles before October.
The Rockies (68-54) moved back atop the wild-card standings, one game ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks (67-55) and 5 1/2 ahead of the Brewers (63-60), as Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra also homered in front of 32,385 fans in LoDo.
A split four-game series with the Atlanta Braves through Thursday somehow felt worrisome at Coors Field, as if the Rockies’ stride toward September is on wobbly footing. But as they bounced Milwaukee’s Matt Garza for eight runs (seven earned) into the fifth inning, Colorado found a stride. The best-hitting home team in baseball has scored 29 runs in their past three games.
Blackmon’s homer spoke of impatience. He pushed Garza’s fourth pitch of the first inning to the left-field bleachers, Blackmon’s team-leading 29th homer this season. It was his second homer the opposite direction in two days.
Domingo Santana’s solo homer off Rockies rookie right-hander German Marquez in the second only momentarily evened the score. Marquez doubled in the third inning and scored, trailed by Blackmon, on Nolan Arenado’s triple off the right-field scoreboard. Parra then knocked in Arenado and the Rockies were comfortably ahead the rest of the way.
Parra pointed at a 440-foot homer off the back of the bullpen wall in the fifth. But Gonzalez’s homer two batters later was an indication of something larger. First, Mark Reynolds swung at strike three but lumbered safely to first when the ball blubbered away. Then as the Brewers shifted heavy to the right side, leaving third base and shortstop wide open, Gonzalez nailed just his second homer since June 21.
Gonzalez’s ability to hit for power has eluded him for most of the season. He hit 65 home runs over the past two seasons, but his high-stepping sweet swing lost its timing. But the Rockies have decided to wait for Gonzalez to find his form. If his lot is a No. 6 hitter, a slugger’s stroke would transform the Rockies’ lineup.
Marquez (10-5, 4.24 ERA) held Milwaukee to two runs on five hits through five innings. But Keon Broxton and Orlando Arcia hammered consecutive homers off the 22-year-old in the sixth, both to the deep part of the park into the forest beyond center field. Marquez gave up four runs in total, including three homers, on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
But the Rockies bullpen held and Greg Holland struck out Arcia and Eric Thames in a hitless ninth.