Carlos Gonzalez provided the Colorado Rockies with a much needed offensive boost.
He homered twice and finished with a career-high five hits to lead the struggling Rockies to a 9-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
Gonzalez was 5-for-5 and fell a triple shy of a cycle, and Eric Young Jr. also homered for the Rockies, who had lost five of their last six. Colorado had scored 12 runs in those games, including eight Sunday at St. Louis.
Colorado increased its lead to 5-0 in the third when Gonzalez hit his eighth of the season deep into the right-field bleachers. His home run in the ninth put the Rockies up 8-3 and gave him nine multi-home run games in his career.
He also continued to torment the Cubs, raising his lifetime average against Chicago to .427, while getting to seven home runs and 16 runs batted in over 19 games.
Gonzalez became the first Rockies player to have five hits since Miguel Olivo on May 12, 2010, and his outburst was well-timed for a struggling Colorado team.
“It was a bad stretch, not being able to score runs or be able to help the team,” Gonzalez said. “I think the pitchers did a tremendous job every single game, but it’s frustrating when you’re not able to put runs on the board.”
That wasn’t an issue for the Rockies on Tuesday, whose 17 hits matched a season-high allowed by the Cubs. Troy Tulowitzki had three, while Eric Young Jr., Todd Helton and Nolan Arenado had two apiece for the Rockies.
Along with Young, who hit his first home run of the season, Gonzalez paced the Rockies, who were in danger of falling to one game above .500 for the first time since April 10.
“(Gonzalez) is one of those players that’s always a day away from doing something like that, or doing something you rarely see in this game,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “He’s got that kind of ability. It was nice to see not only him but our offense bust out (Tuesday night).”
Pitcher Jeff Francis also returned to form for the Rockies.
Francis (2-3), winless since April 5, pitched six innings and gave up one run and three hits while striking out seven. After winning his first start, Francis was 0-3 with an 8.25 ERA over his next six outings.
Francis awkwardly slid into second base in the sixth, tweaking his right knee and was taken out after pitching the inning, throwing just 80 pitches.
The early exit, however, did little to diminish his night.
“It was one of those nights where you kind of feel you had it going a little bit,” Francis said. “Unfortunately that happened, but we’ve got guys down there who are capable of doing what they did.”
Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva, meanwhile, did not have it.
Villanueva (1-3) allowed six runs and 12 hits in five innings for the Cubs. He is winless since April 18 and has allowed 18 earned runs in his last four starts after giving up five in his first four.
With Matt Garza’s return from the disabled list looming, Villanueva’s time in the starting rotation could be short.
“We will be a stronger team when (Garza) comes back. Obviously I have my own opinions; obviously a move will be made. (Tuesday night) didn’t help my cause,” Villanueva said. “For me, I will take the ball whenever they need me.”
Cubs manager Dale Sveum wasn’t really talking about any potential changes to the rotation. He said Tuesday wasn’t a “tryout” for Villanueva.
“(Tuesday night), he didn’t have any one of his pitches,” Sveum said.
That was apparent early, with the Rockies scoring five times in the first three innings. Young hit his home run in the second, Gonzalez got his first homer in the third, and the Rockies built their lead.
“We have a lineup that can explode at any time. We’ve got a lot of offensive talent, and we’ve had to grind through this tough time the last week or so,” Weiss said. “I always feel like we’re capable of busting out with the group we have.”