clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

‘How about that new guy?’ Carlos Gonzalez makes impression as Cubs beat Angels

The three-time All-Star started in right field — where he made the defensive play of the game — in his Cubs debut Monday.

Los Angeles Angels v Chicago Cubs
Gonzalez slid across the warning track after this catch with the bases loaded in the seventh Monday.
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The last time Carlos Gonzalez was at Wrigley Field, he saw a struggling group of hitters that looked even to his Rockies like what Cubs president Theo Epstein a day later called a ‘‘broken’’ offense.

‘‘There was something about the team that wasn’t the same as in the past,’’ said Gonzalez, whose Rockies beat the Cubs in 13 innings to eliminate them in the wild-card game last October. ‘‘We ended up winning the game, and I think a lot of that is because it seemed like they were a little down because they struggled at the end of the year.

‘‘You never want to show that to an opponent. We took advantage of it. You’ve just got to continue to work and believe in yourself and always keep your head up.’’

Eight months and a day after that game, Gonzalez — a three-time All-Star — joined a Cubs team that had looked for the last week remarkably similar to the all-or-nothing group that was bounced in October.

But whether it had anything to do with his veteran presence, his ‘‘believe in yourself’’ mantra, the hit and walk he provided — or maybe even his runs-saving catch in the seventh inning — the Cubs looked a little bit different by the time they beat the Angels 8-1 in Gonzalez’s Cubs debut Monday.

‘‘You could just see the presence in the lineup, how that lengthens the lineup out,’’ manager Joe Maddon said.

Gonzalez, 33, joined the Cubs as a minimum-salary flier less than two weeks after the Indians released him. He started in right field and batted fifth.

‘‘It’s a new chapter in my career,’’ he said after playing in only two minor-league games for the Cubs after signing. ‘‘I’m just ready to take advantage of the opportunity.’’

The best-case vision for the left-handed Gonzalez, a former batting champion, involves helping to stabilize a lineup that has struggled the last three weeks against a gauntlet of better pitching — just as Ben Zobrist left the team indefinitely for family reasons.

The victory in the makeup game from a mid-April postponement came after the Cubs were swept in three games by the Cardinals in St. Louis, dropping them to 2-8 in their last 10 games.

‘‘How about that new guy?’’ said Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, who snapped a personal three-game skid with seven strong innings. ‘‘I’m glad to see him on our side, I know that.’’

Gonzalez’s biggest moment came with the Cubs leading 6-0 in the seventh. The Angels had the bases loaded with one out when he gloved Jonathan Lucroy’s drive at full sprint in the gap in right-center, then slid across the warning track. Instead of a bases-clearing extra-base hit, it went for a sacrifice fly.

‘‘There’s a reason he has Gold Gloves,’’ center fielder Jason Heyward said. ‘‘People don’t realize how close he was to hitting that wall on the slide. Hell of a play. Stuff like that can lift a team.’’

So can this: The Cubs were 4-for-4 with men in scoring position in their five-run sixth. Before that, they were 1-for-36 in such situations dating to last Monday.

‘‘The world revolves around confidence,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘But it’s one game. We’ve got another team coming in tomorrow, so it’s going to be different.’’

Strange, even, for Gonzalez, who spent a decade with the Rockies and said he looks forward to seeing old friends.

He called his Cubs debut ‘‘better than I expected,’’ especially for the energy of the crowd in the midafternoon game. He also thinks he’ll be better than some might expect.

‘‘I feel strong physically,’’ he said. ‘‘The past two years, the numbers have not been the same that everybody was used to. It just shows that baseball has a lot of ups and downs. I’m positive that there’s a lot of baseball ahead of me.’’