Nolan Arenado got the heavy lifting done early Tuesday night, blasting a first-inning, two-run homer to the left field concourse that took a single, high hop and promptly exited the stadium.
Arenado’s home run, the longest of his career at 482 feet, carried the Rockies to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the series opener. It also gave Colorado just its second win over its last 13 games in front of a largely pro-Cardinals crowd at Coors Field, where right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez delivered his best outing of the season.
“We played well,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We had some great defensive plays, but we just didn’t swing the bats great overall besides the big swing from Nolan. There’s a time when you’ve got to win a 2-1 game, and we did tonight.”
The Rockies had lost each of Gonzalez’s first nine starts, a club record, but the lack of home offense didn’t deter the right-hander from a win this time. Gonzalez tossed six innings of one-run ball in a quality start, with four strikeouts and no walks as he looked sharp from his opening one-two-three inning.
St. Louis finally got on the board in the fourth inning, when Paul Goldschmidt’s RBI single scored Dexter Fowler to cut the score to 2-1. Then Gonzalez, facing the telltale moment of his outing in the fifth, secured his solid showing by getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam that was complicated by a Daniel Murphy throwing error earlier in the frame. The Cardinals were then retired in order in the sixth.
“After Nolan got the big homer early on, I was able to throw up some zeros and I got out of the traffic in the fifth with a good slider to get Fowler to roll over and end the inning,” Gonzalez said. “I was executing my fastball, the velocity was up, I was locating all over the zone and I was pitching to contact.”
Michael Wacha pitched solid for St. Louis aside from the Arenado homer he gave up, while the Cardinals’ bullpen did its job by blanking the Rockies for the final four innings. Arenado’s 38th homer of the season, punctuated by a swing that brought him to a knee, made him the fourth player to amass 500 extra-base hits in a Colorado uniform, joining Larry Walker, Todd Helton and Carlos Gonzalez.
“It was a changeup up, and I know if he gets it down, I probably chop it into the ground or swing and miss over it,” Arenado said. “But it was up, and I was able to put a good swing on it. I was just happy it stayed fair. … I’m pulling the ball (with power) better this year, which is good.”