(Sports Network) - With the Colorado Rockies making a belated push for a playoff spot, Carlos Gonzalez has been enhancing his credentials for a possible National League MVP Award with his performance over the past few weeks.
Gonzalez puts a career-best 15-game hitting streak on the line and the resurgent Rockies set their sights on a sixth consecutive win when they continue a four-game series with the suddenly-slumping Cincinnati Reds tonight at Coors Field.
Colorado has vaulted itself back into the NL postseason picture by winning 11 of its last 16 contests, including the first two tests of this set. The Rockies, who returned home off a critical three-game sweep at NL West-leading San Diego over the weekend, are currently 4 1/2 games back the Padres in the division standings and trail Atlanta by the same amount for the lead in the league's Wild Card race.
Gonzalez has certainly played a big part in Colorado's recent roll. The standout outfielder is batting a scorching .525 (31-for-59) with seven home runs and 21 RBI during his tear and belted a three-run homer in the first inning that helped the Rockies to a 4-3 triumph over the reeling Reds last night.
"I feel good. I think I'm seeing the ball really well," Gonzalez said afterward. "I'm just trying to take advantage of every situation so I can help the ball club win."
Gonzalez has made himself a serious threat for the NL's Triple Crown in the process. The 24-year-old tops the Senior Circuit in both batting average (.340) and RBI (100) and trails St. Louis' Albert Pujols by three homers for the lead in that category.
Miguel Olivo added three hits, including an RBI double, to Tuesday's triumph, while rookie pitcher Jhoulys Chacin (8-9) held Cincinnati's potent offense to two runs over the first six innings.
The Reds closed within 4-3 on Jonny Gomes' solo homer off reliever Rafael Betancourt in the eighth, but Colorado closer Huston Street pitched a scoreless ninth to nail down the Rockies' eighth straight win over Cincinnati at Coors Field. The Reds haven't prevailed in Denver since August 22, 2008.
Although Cincinnati did take two of three matchups from the Rockies in Ohio back in July, Colorado is now 17-3 over its last 20 tilts against the Reds following yesterday's result.
The loss was the third in a row and fourth in five outings for the NL Central- leading Reds, who were still able to maintain a six-game advantage on second- place St. Louis after the Cardinals fell to Milwaukee on Tuesday. Drew Stubbs paced Cincinnati with two hits and a pair of RBI in last night's setback.
"We had a few opportunities with runners on base," said Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker. "Fortunately for us, we didn't lose any ground (to the Cardinals)."
Baker will hand the ball to the usually-reliable Bronson Arroyo in hopes of bouncing back tonight. The long-haired veteran is in a bit of rut of his own, having lost two straight starts after besting the Dodgers on August 22 to claim his 14th victory of the season.
Arroyo didn't pitch badly in either defeat, yielding three runs and just five hits over seven innings against the Chicago Cubs on August 28 and allowing three runs in six frames at St. Louis this past Friday. The Reds lost both games by 3-2 scores.
The 33-year-old did beat the Rockies in Cincinnati on July 16 by tossing seven innings of two-run ball, improving his lifetime record to 2-2 with a 3.78 earned run average in nine games (seven starts) against Colorado.
Gonzalez has had success against the Reds right-hander, however, having collected four hits in eight lifetime at-bats off Arroyo.
Aaron Cook takes the mound for Colorado for his second start upon returning from a month-long stint on the disabled list due to a sprained right toe. The right-hander pitched very well in his comeback effort, limiting San Diego to two runs and just four hits over 6 1/3 innings to pick up a win at Petco Park on Friday.
The victory was Cook's first since he fired seven shutout innings to best the Reds on July 18. The sinker specialist is 3-0 with a 4.34 ERA in nine career meetings with Cincinnati, eight of which have been starts.
Cook has struggled in each of his past two Coors Field assignments, however, having surrendered a total of 10 runs and 14 hits in just 5 1/3 innings in back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh (July 28) and San Francisco (Aug. 3).