(BaseballStL) — In a season of firsts for many players within the Cardinal organization, Marco Gonzales got a taste of nearly all of them in his MLB debut Wednesday.
He began the game with his first perfect inning, getting his first ground out and then striking out big-swinging Drew Stubbs for his first K.
Next he got arguably the National League’s best hitter, Troy Tulowitzki, to swing and miss on three straight change ups.
His first head-turner.
The 22-year-old walked off to a swell of cheers, as his home state supporters had shown up en masse. Growing up in Fort Collins, he had amassed quite the following in the Centennial State, and many of them made their presence known as he headed to the dugout.
His first ovation.
Gonzales continued to shine in the second, getting three soft grounders to make short work of the Rockies and finish two frames in 23 pitches.
Then, he led off the third with his first major league hit, a double into left center. He would later score his first major league run to give the Cardinals the lead. Things seemed to be picture perfect for the Colorado native, and the third inning was more of the same.
However, for every uplifting first, there is one that reminds young players the game has just as many low points. Gonzales issued his first walk to D.J. LeMahieu in frame number three, perhaps indicative of that other, far sharper edge of the ‘first’ sword coming around.
In the fourth, the wrong edge came crashing down on the lefty, beginning with the inning’s first hitter Drew Stubbs. Fresh off a moon shot Tuesday night, Stubbs dealt a first time three-fer to Gonzales, hammering a ball into the left field stands.
In one swing, the Gonzaga product had surrendered his first hit, run and homer.
The Rockies were in no way finished, and the Cardinal prospect had much more to learn. Troy Tulowitzki, who had already struck out once, continued to struggle against the young pitcher, popping out to second. Justin Morneau, however, saw one pitch before ripping a single into right.
Wilin Rosario was next, doubling to put men on second and third.
Gonzales got ahead of Corey Dickerson 0-2, but couldn’t put him away. After throwing two balls, then having two pitches spoiled, the Cardinal starter watched as Dickerson took the seventh pitch off the right field wall for two more runs.
His first spiral.
Things were getting rough for the young lefty, and they went from bad to worse. A walk, a single and an infield out scored two more, giving Colorado a 5-1 lead
The onslaught came to a close on another groundout, but the Rockies had brought nine hitters to the plate.
His first big inning.
The Cardinals would get three back in their half of the fifth, making it a one run game once more. Gonzales would close out the fifth and hold the Rockies at bay, starting exactly where the previous inning began in the order. This time he surrendered only two hits, escaping without further damage.
His first rebound.
All told Gonzales tossed 82 pitches, 57 for strikes. He struck out three and walked two, surrendering seven hits and five earned runs.
Despite an ugly fourth, the young pitcher showed flashes of being MLB ready. His change up was diabolical early, and he induced eight groundouts compared to one in the air; a necessity in a hitter’s park like Coors Field.
The Cardinals would eventually go on to win the game, meaning just about the only first Gonzales didn’t see was a decision.
With the biggest day of his professional career behind him, he could rest Wednesday night knowing he achieved something thousands dream of but few ever see.
His first day as a major leaguer.