CLEVELAND -- In 15 games going into Wednesday night, Rockies center fielder Carlos Gonzalez hit .342 with two home runs and nine RBIs, after struggling on and off from mostly the No. 3 hole.
So is there a connection between the leadoff spot and the production?
"It doesn't make any difference," said Gonzalez, who entered Wednesday hitting .285 -- 40 points higher than he was just a month earlier. "I'm still going to face the same pitcher in any position. It's just that I'm going well.
"But this teaches you how important it is to have a good leadoff hitter because he's the one whose going to create the situations for the guys behind him. It makes it easier when the leadoff guy is always on base. It's a big responsibility."
Gonzalez led the National League in batting last year hitting mostly in the No. 3 position, and he figures he'll work his way back there at some point in his career. Since he is under a seven-year, $80 million contract with the Rockies, he thinks he will always be in an important spot in the order. After Dexter Fowler, now at Triple-A Colorado Springs, struggled with strikeouts, No. 1 was the spot where the Rockies needed him.
In the third spot, Gonzalez can be a big RBI producer. He hit 34 home runs and drove in 117 runs last year. He entered Wednesday second on the club with 43 RBIs, behind cleanup man and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. But Gonzalez said it doesn't matter to him who drives in the runs as much as having a lineup that consistently gives hitters opportunities for run-scoring at-bats.
"You don't make numbers by yourself," Gonzalez said. "If you don't have any traffic, you're not going to produce runs and you're not going to score runs if your teammates are struggling. It's about the whole team. When everybody's doing the job, that's how you produce numbers and that's how the team wins. We've got to find a way to win.
"Last year was a great year. I put up monster numbers but it was not good enough to make the playoffs. I signed the seven-year extension because I want to be a winner."
Rockies manager Jim Tracy said he had no worry about any push-back from Gonzalez when he went to him with the plan to bat at the top of the order. Gonzalez being on base at a .414 clip as a leadoff man has been a boon to Tulowitzki and Helton, and in National League games Tracy can use Jason Giambi as a pinch-hitter in the nine hole late in games with confidence that opponents won't pitch around him.
"That's the beautiful thing about this player; all he wants to do is win," Tracy said. "He'll do anything that he feels when you present it to him, and understands from the reasoning that you're giving him that it's in his best interest, as it was at the time, and maybe also as the team's best interest."