Raffy's Notebook: CarGo Learns Valuable Lessons From HR Drought

DENVER, CO - MAY 31: Carlos Gonzalez #5 of the Colorado Rockies watches his three run homerun off of starting pitcher Bud Norris #20 of the Houston Astros in the first inning at Coors Field on May 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. Gonzalez set a Rockies record with four homeruns in four consecutive at bats. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

June 15. That was the last time Carlos Gonzalez had hit a homer. Most specifically, the blast happened at an interleague contest between the Colorado Rockies and the Detroit Tigers.

94 at-bats were needed for Gonzalez in order to get another fastball to send it off the ballpark. It was at Coors Field, no less, courtesy of Pittsburgh Pirates starter James McDonald in the first inning. CarGo would drive in two runs with a massive blast between center rightfield. It was his 18th jack of the season, and his 95th overall.

"The Carlos Gonzalez power stroke is back," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

"Due to the pitch sequence I have been seeing for a while, it had been extremely hard for me to get a good pitch in order to have a power swing," Gonzalez said. "Finally, during a count in my favor, (McDonald) sent one of those nice fastballs and I was ready to hit it as far as I could."

That ended the longest home run drought in Gonzalez's career, surpassing the one he experienced during his rookie year with the Oakland Athletics, from June 26 to July 22, 2008, encompassing 78 plate appearances.

A series of factors combined in order for Gonzalez to experience his longest timeframe without a dinger. He has always loved to put on a show, at the plate and on the outfield. But this taught him a series of valuable lessons needed for him to mature even more as a ballplayer.

Monday night, Gonzalez was joking with his fellow outfielder Dexter Fowler. He had a sacrifice fly which brought in a walkoff run for the Rockies against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"You got a nice pitch to hit, and all I get is off-the-zone stuff," Gonzalez said, with his characteristic smile.

This phrase sums up what the Venezuelan outfielder has experienced ever since Troy Tulowitzki was sent to the disabled list since May 30 with a strained left groin. The Rockies shortstop would return by early August, at the very least.

For Gonzalez, it has meant seeing a lot of bad pitches.

"You always want to have the best protection available in your lineup, especially batting third. Even more so, when you're putting on nice numbers. So the opposing teams have a harder time handling their pitchers whenever they have to face two threatening batters. Until now, things haven't worked out in that regard since Tulowitzki has been injured," Gonzalez said.

"There's a similar case we have been seeing right in front of us during these past few days. The Pirates have Andrew McCutchen batting over .370 and the guy who hits next to him is batting only .250. You won't see the same pitches you are used to see" with a Tulowitzki next to him. "You will get a lot of throws off the strike zone. That's why I say things will improve a lot once we have him back in the lineup."

However, Gonzalez is not complaining. This has helped him to improve his hitting for average, and has enabled him to stay as one of the best hitters in the National League in several categories, batting .333 (6th), with 62 RBI (5th), 34 multi-hit games (tied at 2nd with McCutchen), 198 total bases (2nd), 63 runs (tied at 2nd). Oh, and he's still 6th in the home run category.

"This has forced me to improve in my patience at the plate," says Gonzalez, known for his free-swinging ways. "I see it as something I needed to experience in order to be always better, always improving, and keeping myself at a very high level," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez was batting third during Wednesday's game, after a few stints at the cleanup spot. This has never been his natural position, but he says he's not overwhelmed by that, and understands it's part of the things the Rockies need to experiment during this disappointing season for the Colorado nine.

"I am not paying attention to that. I am not even thinking about it whenever I come to the clubhouse. I do my job in the very same way. I see it as a chance the Skipper is giving me so I can get some runs in and make a better contribution. In the end, all we are looking for is having a chance to improve the team's situation," Gonzalez said.

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