Originally written on Baseball Prospectus  |  Last updated 6/1/12

The Thursday Takeaway
In the 23-hour period spanning 8:00 p.m. MT on Wednesday and 7:00 p.m. MT on Thursday, it seemed irrelevant who Astros manager Brad Mills put on the mound—Carlos Gonzalez was going to hit a home run regardless.

Lucas Harrell? Check. Xavier Cedeno? Check. David Carpenter? Check. Bud Norris? Check.

Lefty or righty, fastball or breaking ball, to left-center or to right-center—Gonzalez had them all covered, tying a major-league record by becoming the first player to go deep in four consecutive plate appearances since Albert Pujols did it in 2006. And he might have made it five, had Mills not thrown up four fingers to save Norris, who lasted just 1 2/3 innings, from being on the wrong side of history.

Gonzalez is not the best hitter in baseball. He may not even be one of the 10 best. But when CarGo is hot, there is no one hotter. The Rockies’ left fielder went 11-for-18 in his team’s four-game sweep of the Astros, adding three doubles to those four big flies and driving home eight of Colorado’s 40 runs. And that’s not even the best four-day span of Gonzalez’s career: Between July 28-31, 2010, he went 12-for-18 with two doubles, a triple, and four home runs, paving the way for a 34-run Rockies output.

The 26-year-old’s heroics during the just-completed sweep capped off a remarkable .351/.417/.728 May for Gonzalez, who has temporarily supplanted the injured Matt Kemp as the National League’s most dangerous hitter. Yet that 1.145 OPS over the past 31 days is not CarGo’s best-ever effort for a month, either: He surpassed it twice during the aforementioned 2010 season, with a 1.150 OPS in July and a career-high 1.174 mark in August.

The streaking Rockies will play three more games at Coors before hitting the road next week, and the Dodgers—who have lost four in a row—will need to cool Gonzalez’s bat to get back on track. Tonight’s (8:40 p.m. ET) starter Chris Capuano has fared well in his past meetings with CarGo, holding him to just one hit in nine at-bats.

What to Watch for This Weekend

  • After being embarrassed by the Nationals on their home field last weekend, the Braves recovered to snap their skid and take two of three from the Cardinals. Now just two games behind the division leaders, the Braves have a chance to exact revenge in the nation’s capital in a three-game weekend series. Mike Minor will pitch the opener in search of his first quality start since April 24, and Dan Uggla will look to maintain his ownage—6-for-8 with two homers and two walks—of Washington’s starter Stephen Strasburg tonight (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • While the Braves and Nationals battle for first place in the NL East, the Orioles will travel to Tampa Bay looking to regain sole possession of the top spot in the AL East. It won’t be easy, because the Rays will send David Price, who is 4-2 with a 2.90 ERA in nine career starts against Baltimore and has a 1.19 ERA at the Trop this year, to the mound tonight (7:10 p.m. ET). Buck Showalter will counter with Wei-Yin Chen, who has actually outpitched his more-ballyhooed fellow import to date, providing 1.0 WARP to Yu Darvish’s 0.8.
  • In the first matchup of the season featuring two pitchers with at least 15 combined wins, Clayton Kershaw will meet Roy Halladay. Wait, what’s that? It’s Lance Lynn (8-1) and R.A. Dickey (7-1)? OK, then. Those two right-handers will duel in the middle match of the Cardinals-Mets series at Citi Field on Saturday afternoon (4:10 p.m. ET). Lynn—who might not even have had a rotation spot if Chris Carpenter had been healthy at the end of spring training—is 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA away from Busch Stadium this year.
  • C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish were supposed to duel on May 11, but Mother Nature had other ideas, and only the latter returned after a lengthy rain delay. Not to worry: The stars have aligned to pit those two against each other again on Saturday night (10:05 p.m. ET) at The Big A. It’s the lone late game of the night, so be sure to tune in after the FOX blackout period expires.
  • The Mariners have the good fortune of missing Philip Humber—who tossed a perfect game against them at Safeco Field on April 21—on their trip to Chicago, but they won’t dodge Chris Sale, who fanned 11 Seattle batters in a win the previous night. Sale was dominant on Memorial Day, allowing just a run on three hits in 7 1/3 innings while striking out 15 Rays, and he will be looking for his third double-digit strikeout game of the season on Sunday afternoon (2:10 p.m. ET).
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