CarGo hits three homers in rout of Astros

CarGo hits three homers in rout of Astros

CarGo hits three homers in rout of Astros
DENVER -- Carlos Gonzalez won a batting title and finished third in the National League's Most Valuable Player voting two years ago. Imagine what he could have done had he known a ball from a strike.

Putting increased knowledge with a dazzling swing, Gonzalez established a career high and matched a Rockies single-game record with three home runs in a 13-5 victory over the Astros on Wednesday night at Coors Field in front of 28,102.

"I won a batting title in 2010 swinging at everything, swinging at balls," Gonzalez said. "When things like this happen, they happen. I have a really good swing. When the ball is close to the plate, I know I can reach any ball, inside or outside. But right now, I feel really good at the plate and I have more discipline."

Gonzalez punished Astros pitching in lifting the Rockies to their first three-game winning streak since April 17-20. There was plenty of help on Wednesday. Michael Cuddyer launched a first-inning grand slam and Dexter Fowler, who is almost as hot as Gonzalez lately, hit a three-run homer during the Rockies' six-run sixth.

But Gonzalez made sure the Rockies, who have lost several games when they've produced big offensively, were smiling at game's end.

Gonzalez broke a 5-5 tie with a homer off Astros starter Lucas Harrell (4-4) to open the fifth. In the sixth, Fowler hit his eighth homer of the year, and second in as many games, off Rhiner Cruz for a 10-6 lead. Gonzalez then launched a two-run shot off Xavier Cedeno to make it 12-6. Gonzalez finished the night by taking David Carpenter deep over the right-field wall in the eighth for his team-leading 13th homer and 41st RBI.

Gonzalez, 10-for-16 with five home runs, two doubles and seven RBIs in his last four games, put on a clinic in pitch recognition.

"Not even one [was a fastball]," Gonzalez said. "The second one off the lefty [Cedeno] was kind of like a fastball, a cutter away. The first one was a changeup on a hitter's count, 2-1. They did it to me before, the first doubleheader [game]. That's why you have to be smart, just always follow the sequences.

"The last one, he threw me a slider the first pitch and I drove it to right field. Special nights are just meant to be. You don't really look for it."

Said an impressed Astros left fielder J.D. Martinez, "CarGo went off. What are you going to do?"

It was the 13th three-homer game in the Rockies' 20-year history, and the first since Jason Giambi did it last May 19 at Philadelphia. Gonzalez's homers in three consecutive at-bats marked the first time a Colorado player has done that since Jeff Baker on Sept. 17 against the D-backs and Sept. 18 against the Giants last season.

"He has stepped into another level," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Hot is one thing -- damaging hot is another."

Cuddyer's slam was the sixth of his career and second of the season. Fowler followed up his 7-for-9 performance in Monday's doubleheader with a homer and a double, and has three homers, a triple and a double in the Rockies' last four games. Jordan Pacheco had an RBI single in the sixth and has 10 RBIs in the last 15 games.

All of that offensive production might have gone unrewarded had rookie lefty starter Christian Friedrich (3-1) not righted himself after a tough early going.

Friedrich took a 5-1 lead into the third inning only to give up four runs on four hits, including Chris Snyder's two-run double, as the Astros tied the score.

Friedrich fought off trouble the next two innings, pitching around Jose Altuve's one-out double in the fourth and a first-and-third, one-out jam in the fifth before he fanned Snyder and Harrell. But after Gonzalez's go-ahead homer, Friedrich shut down the Astros in a perfect sixth.

"I was going back to my game, trying to get ahead, stay ahead and put them away as quick as I can," said Friedrich, who earned his first Coors Field victory. "The quicker I did that, the better off I was."

Friedrich's victory came on the day his mentor, 49-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer, was designated for assignment. Friedrich and Moyer played catch in Spring Training, and Moyer counseled Friedrich on how to think his way through difficult situations. It came in handy on Wednesday.

Friedrich gave up 11 hits and five runs in six innings, but had six strikeouts against one walk.

"One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was, 'When the crowd got louder, I threw softer,'" Friedrich said. "He told me when the game speeds up on me, where am I going to go to make it natural? Use it like a bullpen, was his advice to me."

After finishing his night, Friedrich could enjoy the work of Gonzalez.

"When he hit his first one, he said, 'I've been waiting for that pitch all night,'" Friedrich said. "The second one, I told him, 'I guess you were waiting for that one all night.' Before the third one, 'Whitey' [pitcher Alex White] looked at me and said, 'Why doesn't he hit a third one right here,' and it was a towering home run, one of the most impressive hitting displays I've seen."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.