Chris Nelson is taking advantage of an opportunity. Injuries have forced the Rockies to play Jordan Pacheco regularly at first base. He had been the starting third baseman, a position that Nelson is playing regularly. He has hit well recently and has shown the ability to hit with power and drive in runs, attributes that are part of the job description for a corner infielder.
Nolan Arenado, 21, is seen as the Rockies third baseman of the future. He played at Class AA this season and will likely begin 2013 at Class AAA Colorado Springs. There are no guarantees when Arenado will reach the majors or how he'll perform. Meanwhile, Nelson, who turned 27 on Sept. 3 and was the ninth player chosen overall in the 2004 draft, is playing well in his first full season in the majors.
He went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored and ended up a triple shy of the cycle Friday as the Rockies scored five runs in the first and beat the Padres 7-4 at Petco Park. Nelson is hitting .285 (79-for-277) with 16 doubles, nine homers and 46 RBI. He has raised his on-base percentage to .340 and his slugging percentage to .462.
He drove in the fifth run in first with a Baltimore chop single and homered in the third, a first-pitch drive off starter Andrew Cashner that landed in the second deck in left field.
"I don't pull a lot of home runs," said Nelson, "but when I do -- that one felt pretty good."
Nelson doubled off the base of the center-field wall in the fifth and popped out in the eighth.
Nelson began playing regularly Aug. 22. He has started 21 of the past 22 games, his only day off coming Sept. 6 after going hitless in seven at-bats in the previous two games.
In that 21-game stretch, Nelson, who typically bats sixth or seventh, has gone 26-for-76 (.342) with four doubles, two triples, four homers, 16 RBI and 14 runs scored.
Nelson's splits are a bit unusual. He's hitting .333 in 144 at-bats at Coors Field compared to .233 in 133 at-bats on the road. But he has 10 doubles, three homers and 25 RBI in 144 at-bats at home and six doubles, six homers and 21 RBI in 133 at-bats on the road.