Manager Jim Tracy had one left-handed hitter in his lineup against Cubs lefty James Russell, and it wasn't slumping left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who led the National League in hitting with a .336 average last year.
Once a fixture as the Rockies' No. 3 hitter, Helton returned to that spot in the lineup with Gonzalez on the bench.
"A three-hole hitter is the focal point in the lineup, if that's the right word," Helton said. "But you'd like your three-hole hitter to run a little bit more than I can run. But I don't care, either way. I've always said, 'As long as I'm not hitting ninth.' I know it's not good writing material, but it's true."
With the Rockies leading 4-2 going into the bottom of the eighth, Gonzalez went in to play left field on a double switch and grounded out in the ninth, extending his hitless stretch to 22 at-bats. Tracy said Gonzalez, who is batting .214, would return to the lineup Wednesday. Gonzalez is 18-for-84 overall and 1-for-21 against left-handers after grounding out against John Grabow. The fact that the Cubs started a lefty didn't influence Tracy's decision to hold Gonzalez out of the lineup.
"He just needs to clear his head," Tracy said. "That's all it is. It doesn't matter if it was a righty or lefty."
Hitting coach Carney Lansford said Gonzalez, who signed a seven-year, $80 million contract after last season, "just needs to swing at strikes. When he's disciplined, he's one of the best hitters in the game. He's gotten pull-happy. He needs to get back to going foul line to foul line."
Lansford and Tracy watched video and detected a flaw in Gonzalez's leg kick versus a year ago. Namely, it's more straight up and down this year, causing Gonzalez to be more upright with his shoulders and have more of a pull-hitter's swing. Ideally, Gonzalez's leg kick involves a circular move that helps him to keep his front shoulder in, allowing him to stay on the ball longer and hit more balls up the middle.
Gonzalez had a good session in the Wrigley Field batting cage before the Rockies went out and beat the Cubs for the second straight game to improve their record to 16-7.
"It's going to come," Gonzalez said. "I'm really glad it's still April, and I'm really glad the team is playing well. It's not like a lot of pressure, because the team's not winning."
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.