Juan Gonzalez knows his role, and right now no one in baseball is doing it better.
Gonzalez boosted his major league-leading RBI total to 78 with a solo homer, and Will Clark also homered as the Texas Rangers handed the Colorado Rockies their fifth consecutive loss, 5-2, Tuesday night.
“This is my job, driving in runs,” Gonzalez said. “I have 78, which is great, but what I have to do is stay consistent and concentrate when men are on base. There’s a lot of ballgames to go.”
Gonzalez, 28, is on pace to eclipse one of baseball’s most elusive records, the 190 RBIs by the Chicago Cubs’ Hack Wilson in 1930. He already has the most career RBIs in Ranger history (868).
“He’s been unbelievable,” Ranger Manager Johnny Oates said. “He and [St. Louis’ Mark] McGwire, the numbers they have put up. But Juan’s have been over his career. This isn’t something that has just happened this year. When he’s healthy, he’s as good an RBI man as there is in the game.”
Also starring for the Rangers was Rick Helling (8-3), who pitched six strong innings, giving up only one run and four hits before tiring in the seventh.
Helling, who had lost his previous two decisions and hadn’t won since May 19, took a 5-1 lead into the seventh, when he surrendered a single and two walks to load the bases with one out.
Reliever Xavier Hernandez struck out pinch-hitter Jeff Reed, walked Todd Helton to force in a run and then struck out Vinny Castilla.
Colorado got two runners aboard in the eighth with one out, but Kirt Manwaring grounded into a double play.
John Wetteland pitched a perfect ninth for his 18th save.
“I didn’t pitch well here last year [for Florida],” Helling said. “This field, if you let it, can get in your head. What I tried to do tonight was just pitch my regular ballgame. If you make pitches and put the ball where you’re supposed to, you’re going to get hitters out.”
The Rockies, who have scored a total of only nine runs during their losing streak, got their other run in the third on Helton’s solo homer, his eighth.
“From my perspective, it’s always one hit,” Rockies Manager Don Baylor said. “If we get one hit, we break open a game or we get right back in a game. We just can’t get that one hit. We had seventh- and eighth-inning opportunities, and when you’re struggling the way we are, they don’t come along that often.”
Clark led off the second with his 10th homer of the season.
The Rangers went ahead, 4-1, with three runs in the fourth off John Thomson (5-6). Gonzalez opened the inning with a homer, his 20th. Clark walked, went to third on Ivan Rodriguez’s single and scored on Domingo Cedeno’s sacrifice fly. Rodriguez scored on Fernando Tatis’ single.
Clark’s RBI single in the fifth made it, 5-1, and chased Thomson, who had won his previous three starts.
Texas bunched three singles in a row to lead off the third but had little to show for it when one baserunner was picked off second and another was caught stealing.