He'd cut a 45-degree angle from his place in right field, racing the go-ahead run and a season for the Colorado Rockies that's seen too many opposing go-ahead runs.
The way he was running, there was hope.
''We still have faith,'' he'd said hours before he wound up on his back in the dirt, the ball in his glove, his legs over his head not like he'd hit the wall, but like it had hit him.
He'd taken the ball over his left shoulder and the Dodger Stadium wall on his right shoulder, then wobbled from the field flanked by medical personnel. Ultimately, it was the right knee that hurt the most, first among several.
Gonzalez is day to day with a bruise. Just like the Rockies' season, the wall came fast.
The television that hangs on the near wall served mostly as an occasional distraction in a visiting clubhouse that had been crowded for two hours before the game.
Gonzalez was reading the newspaper, folded in half, on a black leather couch. When the voices from the television became excited, he laid the paper in his lap and looked up and to his left.
In spite of himself, and in the face of the feigned cool that clouds a big league clubhouse, Gonzalez grinned.
''I'm third,'' he said. ''It's pretty amazing. They showed my name.''
He grew up in northwest Venezuela, where his first baseball was against a brother seven years older. He watched just enough television to fill his head with Ken Griffey Jr.'s(notes) at-bats, then, while the rest of the Seattle Mariners batted, he'd run into the yard with that perfect swing affixed to his soul.
He'd be raised by the Arizona Diamondbacks, then traded for Dan Haren(notes), and raised by the Oakland Athletics, then traded for Matt Holliday(notes), and then he became a big league ballplayer for the Colorado Rockies. By Wednesday afternoon in the middle of August, he was third in the National League in batting, sixth in home runs and third in RBIs, a 24-year-old pushing Pujols and Votto in the Triple Crown discourse.
They're showing his name a lot these days.
From a roster that has underachieved, from a lineup that has died on the road, and from a pitching staff that couldn't be manned by Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) alone, Gonzalez has been everything the Rockies were supposed to be in 2010. They are 10 games out and praying to the god of the 2007 season. He is fast, powerful, elegant and, at 24, still coming.
Jim Tracy, the Rockies manager, called him, ''As graceful-looking a player as I've ever seen. Ever.''
Tracy dubbed him a six-tool player, sprinkling character atop the tactile talents of the total ballplayer.
Todd Helton(notes), whose sore back, .248 average and four home runs is one of the areas that's gone sideways for the Rockies, nodded toward Gonzalez and said, ''He's hitting all pitches to all fields in all situations.''
The hitting coach, Don Baylor, insisted there's plenty more from him, that a hitter – even a talented one – might believe he can hit everything, but can't swing at everything.
''He's 24, so the last part of his game that's going to come around is the hitting part,'' he said of the Triple Crown contender. ''When he's in those streaks where he's seeing the ball good, he's as tough an out as there is. And he hits the ball as hard as anyone. And it's effortless.''
In a breakout season for pitchers, including the pitcher – Jimenez – sitting across from him in the clubhouse, Gonzalez has countered the trend. Especially productive at Coors Field and still slightly unfamiliar with the strike zone, he is hitting left-handers regularly for the first time in the big leagues and his at-bats per home run (17.7) rank with Ryan Howard(notes), Prince Fielder(notes) and Corey Hart(notes), as his OPS does with Adam Dunn(notes) and Holliday.
Were the Rockies to have stayed in contention for another month or two, Gonzalez would have been in the thick of MVP consideration, instead of on its periphery.
''Maybe someday I can win it,'' he said, so earnestly it makes sense when he describes how he went from batting .188 against lefties in 2008, to .276 in '09, to .304 in '10.
He decided to do it, to hit left-handers, to be comfortable and confident. Just like that.
''Before,'' he said, ''I didn't want to face a lefty. It was tough. I put it in my head that it was tough. So I thought, 'If I want to be an every-day player, I have to hit them. I want to face lefties. I want to hit against them.' I just put it in my head.''
He smiled at that.
''It's not that easy,'' he said. ''It's really difficult.''
The way Carlos Gonzalez was walking later, the way he dragged his leg behind him, it was clear he'd since given some thought to the wall. His catch had saved a run in a 10-inning 3-2 win, so the Rockies could go ahead and keeping hoping if they'd like.
''Incredible play,'' Tracy said.
It also likely cost Gonzalez a game, Thursday's. They'll see what Friday brings, see how the knee heals, see how near they are to the wall then.
''I knew it was the only chance I had to make the catch,'' Gonzalez said. ''I hit everything. My face. My chest. My knee. I lost all my air. I was hoping the wall wasn't going to be that close. It was.''
And it is.
- Carlos Gonzalez
- Colorado Rockies