Posted on June 25, 2014 at 11:43 PM
DENVER, Colo. – Marco Gonzales did not have quite the same pressure in his collegiate debut for the Gonzaga University baseball team in 2011, but years later the former Bulldog ace is still learning lessons after making his Major League Baseball debut for the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday at Coors Field against his hometown Colorado Rockies.
“I’ve definitely matured,” Gonzales said in the Cardinals clubhouse after the game. “You mature after each game, success and failure. I had a lot of similar emotions in my collegiate debut but this was the best day of my life. The game of baseball can always teach you something new.”
Gonzales’ day began like a fairytale as the left-handed pitcher retired the first seven batters faced including a three-pitch strikeout to three-time All-Star Troy Tulowitzki.
“I grew up a Tulo fan,” Gonzales remarked. “That strikeout was pretty memorable because he is such a great player. I had a solid start to the game despite how nervous I was but I settled in and competed like I always have.”
In the third inning Gonzales showed what made him the best collegiate two-way player in the nation in 2013 with a double in his first at bat off fellow rookie Yohan Flande. Gonzales scored later in the inning as his childhood hero Matt Holliday singled to center field.
The blemish of the day came in the bottom of fourth inning as the Rockies scored five runs on five hits. Rockie Drew Stubbs got the first hit of the game off Gonzales with a solo homer to left field to begin the rally. Gonzales escaped the frame by getting Charlie Blackmon to ground out.
Gonzales got his second at bat in the top fifth inning. The left-handed hitter laid a successful sacrifice bunt to advance the Cardinals runner into scoring position. St. Louis would cut into the Rockies lead 5-4 with three runs in the frame.
His day came to an end after throwing a scoreless bottom of the fifth. He exited the game as the losing pitcher of record but would get a no decision as the Cardinals rallied for five runs in the final three innings in a 9-6 St. Louis victory.
Overall the former All-American went five innings allowing five runs on seven hits. Gonzales threw 82 pitches with 57 going for strikes. He had three strikeouts while walking two.
“We are so proud of the way Marco has handled himself,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Machtolf stated after watching the game in the stands with his assistant coaches. “It was a great start and he had a terrific response. It means a lot to the program to have a player like Marco represent us. We know the type of competitor he is and we know he will do great things moving forward.”
“Gonzales was really good for us today,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He was in a tough position and I hope he answered a lot of questions he might have had about himself. I think everyone was impressed with his changeup. It was a great job with all the outside stuff he had to deal with, but he kept making pitches and gave us an opportunity to win.”
Wishing he had gotten the win, Gonzales was relieved that his club won the game and that he got to debut just 60 miles from his hometown in Fort Collins.
“It was a blast,” Gonzales reflected. “I had people flying in from everywhere and what felt like the entire city of Fort Collins here. I’m so grateful for everything.”