Carlos Gonzalez, hitting 7-for-June and looking up at a slump so deep his belt was underwater, dug into the dirt around home plate Tuesday staring back at Arizona’s ace. Within a week, the streaking Rockies will face two Cy Young winners, the tallest obstacles to date in a headlong rush through the National League.
First up: Zack Greinke, the Diamondbacks’ wily veteran control artist, a pitcher with an enviable 10-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. He came to Denver with a perfect career record at Coors Field.
The Rockies, though, are riding an otherworldy path, a snowboard on a moonbeam.
Nolan Arenado, who rarely hits triples, tripled again to score Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu in the eighth inning off Greinke in a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Diamondbacks. In front of 35,016 fans, with more chants of “MVP” raining down on Arenado, Colorado kept alive a ceaseless drive.
And Gonzalez hid an upper hand. In 37 previous at-bats against Greinke, the Colorado slugger had four home runs and 13 hits. On an 85-mph slider that Greinke aimed at his hands, Gonzalez launched a 449-foot home run into the trees behind center field.
Boxscore: Colorado 4, Arizona 3
Gonzalez twice carried Colorado on his back. And the Rockies (47-26) dove into a wicked week that will force them to twice prove their worthiness atop the NL West. In a week-long round-robin tournament of the best teams in the NL, the Rockies opened by winning a sixth consecutive game, snapping Arizona’s seven-game streak.
Colorado, now two games ahead of Arizona in the West, is scheduled for back-to-back series against Arizona (44-27) and at Los Angeles (45-26 before Tuesday), where the Rockies will likely face Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
The eighth inning was nearly Colorado’s undoing. Arizona’s David Peralta crushed a 455-foot homer to the second deck in right field off lefty Chris Rusin to lead off the frame. Then Paul Goldschmidt followed with a first-pitch shot to right off Adam Ottavino. Within two pitches, the Diamondbacks quickly took their first lead off the game.
The Rockies wasted little time pouncing on Greinke in the second inning. Ian Desmond legged out an infield single to the left side, then sprinted to second base when Arizona third baseman Jake Lamb launched a throw past first base. Greinke’s wild pitch to Trevor Story pushed Desmond up another base and he scored on catcher Jeff Mathis’ throwing error. Desmond’s marathon trip around the bases gave the Rox a 1-0 lead.
Gonzalez’s one-out homer in the fourth gave them a two-run lead. After an 0-for-27 skid through June, Gonzalez now has a hit in four consecutive games. The Rockies were waiting for his surge. They might still be waiting. But Gonzalez in the fifth dove fully horizontal to nab a Peralta liner toward the gap, robbing him of at least a double and an RBI.
While Rockies rookie German Marquez labored through 97 pitches over six innings, including a well-timed curveball that caught Lamb looking to end the sixth, the defense behind him played on point. Shortstop Trevor Story leaded to nab a Goldschmidt line drive in the fourth. And catcher Tony Wolters threw out Lamb trying to steal second in the sixth with a runner on third.
The Rockies improved to 36-6 this season when they score first. Arizona was 22-17 when their opposing team scored first. Colorado, though, is a June juggernaut. The Rockies are 14-4 this month, the best mark in the majors. With one tough week still to navigate, the Rox sprinted past a major hurdle.