Carlos Gonzalez went to the plate in the bottom of the ninth replaying in his head the words of his teammates: this was his night and he had it in him to do something special.
Punctuating those encouraging words, Gonzalez hit a game-ending home run to complete the cycle, and the Colorado Rockies rallied to beat the Chicago Cubs 6-5 Saturday night after blowing a three-run lead in the eighth inning.
”I heard everyone saying I was going to do it,” Gonzalez said. ”You just believe in yourself. I guess it was meant to be. It was my night, it was the Rockies’ night.”
Gonzalez became the sixth Rockies player to hit for the cycle and the first since Troy Tulowitzki did it last Aug. 10, also against the Chicago Cubs.
”I put a really good swing on the ball,” Gonzalez said. ”The pitch helped me. It was 90-something, inside, and I put it right on the barrel.”
Derrek Lee hit a tying three-run homer in the eighth off Rafael Betancourt.
”It’s been a struggle offensively for us, no question about it,” Lee said. ”We just haven’t clicked on all cylinders. Tonight was tough. We battled back, but Carlos Gonzalez just had a great night.”
Melvin Mora, who went 2 for 2 during Colorado’s record-setting 13-hit, 12-run eighth inning Friday night, went 4 for 4 Saturday to stretch the streak to six hits in six at-bats.
Huston Street (2-2) retired the Cubs in order in the ninth and Gonzalez crushed the first offering from Sean Marshall (6-3), driving the ball into the third deck beyond the center field fence, 462 feet away. He thrust his arms into the air as he rounded third and touched home plate as his teammates swarmed around him.
”That was unbelievable,” Gonzalez said. ”It was a great feeling. All the crowd screaming, it’s a moment you just want to pass out because you don’t know what to do. Just try to get with my teammates and celebrate.”
Marshall said he went right after Gonzalez, who singled, tripled and doubled in his first three at bats.
”He’s a good hitter,” Marshall said. ”He’s locked in right now. He’s putting good swings on bad pitches and good swings on good pitches. He’s probably the guy in the lineup that we didn’t want to beat us. I went in and challenged him and he beat me.”
The Cubs were dealt their fourth straight loss on a day when they sent pitcher Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for infielder Blake Dewitt, two minor leaguers and cash.
The game also marked the return of Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who was activated from the restricted list Friday. Zambrano, who was placed on the list June 29 in the aftermath of a dugout altercation with Lee, came on in relief of starter Tom Gorzelanny with one runner on and one out in the seventh inning.
Zambrano apologized to his teammates after Friday’s activation and he made a grateful return to play, kneeling quietly beside the mound for a moment before pitching and pointing a finger skyward as he walked to the dugout after working out of the seventh-inning jam by fanning pinch-hitter Seth Smith and getting Brad Hawpe to pop out.
Zambrano said he wasn’t uneasy taking the mound again after the monthlong layoff.
”Not at all,” he said. ”Just another game for me. That’s what I think every time I go to the mound. I just wanted to get the hitters out and do my job.”
Gorzelanny came in having gone 4-0 with a 3.42 ERA in July but got a no-decision in his final start of the month, giving up five runs and nine hits before leaving in the seventh after allowing a sacrifice fly to Gonzalez.
Colorado starter Jason Hammel also didn’t figure in the decision after leaving in favor of Betancourt with one out and two on in the eighth and holding a 5-2 lead. Betancourt fanned Starlin Castro but Lee jumped on Betancourt’s first pitch, driving it over the center field wall for his 12th homer and pulling the Cubs into a tie 5-all.
Trailing 4-0, the Cubs pulled to within two in the fifth. Marlon Byrd led off with a single and Alfonso Soriano followed with an RBI double, taking third on the throw home. Soriano then scored on Geovany Soto’s sacrifice fly that right fielder Ryan Spilborgh’s caught with his back against the wall.
Mora led off the second with a single and Spilborghs walked to set the stage for Olivo, who drove Gorzelanny’s first offering over the center field fence for his 13th homer.
The Rockies went ahead 4-0 when Gonzalez tripled off the top of the center field fence in the third and Mora singled him home with his fourth consecutive base hit. Mora made it five in a row with another single in the sixth.
NOTES: Rockies shortstop Tulowitzki’s next game will be the 500th of his career. … Cubs manager Lou Piniella left the team Saturday to attend funeral services in Tampa for his uncle. Bench coach Alan Trammell was managing the team in Piniella’s absence.