Real or not? Astros' Marwin Gonzalez stays hot; bigger nets needed for fans

Marwin Gonzalez has been circling the bases and receiving handshakes often as of late. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Perhaps the Houston Astros' only real problem is that they have only one Marwin Gonzalez.

Gonzalez remained red-hot, touching up Texas' A.J. Griffin on Thursday for his sixth homer in his past six games during Houston’s 10-4 loss in the series finale against the Rangers. Despite the loss, Houston's 19-10 mark is the American League's best.

It was the fourth straight game with a homer for Gonzalez, who has emerged as a jack-of-several-trades in Houston's prolific attack. His power spree is the Astros' longest since George Springer homered in four straight games in 2014, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"He was certainly a huge difference-maker in this series and it has earned him a ton of playing time," Houston manager A.J. Hinch told reporters. "He's the everyday player we don't call an everyday player because he moves around the field."

Gonzalez has already started games at first base, left field, third base and second base this season. All told, he has posted minus-2 defensive runs saved while moving around. That isn't Gold Glove stuff, but it works fine when you've got a 1.087 OPS. Gonzalez leads the Astros with a .457 weighted on-base average (wOBA). This is truly a breakout performance for the 28-year-old, whose forecasted wOBA before the season was .296, per FanGraphs.

Before the season, the Astros emerged as a favorite among the various projection systems, including the one on my computer. It was no surprise -- the Astros made the playoffs two years ago, had a roster full of players on the rise and in the offseason added key players like Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick. I had them pegged to finish second to the Red Sox in runs among AL teams.

But there was one possible hole in that forecast: left field. I had the Astros pegged to finish in the top 10 in WAR at every other position. However, in left, I wasn't even sure Houston would or could settle on a regular. I figured it would be mostly a combination of Nori Aoki and Gonzalez, with Beltran getting an occasional start but for the most part holding down the DH spot.

Indeed, that's what has happened -- Aoki has played there the most, but Gonzalez, Beltran, Reddick and Tony Kemp have played there, too. And Houston indeed ranks in top 10 in WAR at every position on the field, except one: third base. That's where the touted Alex Bregman has struggled to a .265/.360/.316 start while posting minus-5 defensive runs saved in the field.

It's really hard for a lineup to be free of holes at any given time, even a great lineup like Houston's. But when you've got a utility guy producing like Gonzalez, it gives Hinch the luxury of patching up almost any temporary leak. Gonzalez has gone from an afterthought to a major reason the Astros have as complete a lineup as anyone.

No one really expected this. Not even the man himself.

"I'm surprised," Gonzalez told MLB.com. "I'm not a power hitter."

The balls, however, continue to leave the yard.

A mile-high debut at sea level: The Rockies have had a tough go of it at catcher. First, Tom Murphy, slated for regular duty, broke his forearm during spring training. He was throwing to second in an exhibition against the Cubs when he was whacked by Anthony Rizzo's bat. Murphy is unlikely to be back before June.

That left Tony Wolters and Dustin Garneau to share the position, and while Garneau has mostly struggled at the dish, Wolters has not -- he has raked to a .346/.393/.442 line with part of the job-sharing arrangement. But then he was struck in the helmet on a backswing from San Diego's Hector Sanchez -- whom we'll talk about again in a bit -- and ended up on baseball's seven-day disabled list that's part of the concussion protocol.

Left short at the position, the Rockies summoned 36-year-old Ryan Hanigan from the minors. Hanigan made a quick impression in his Colorado debut, a 3-2 win in 11 innings at San Diego. He homered in the seventh and then drove in the go-ahead run in the 11th with a well-placed infield single with the bases loaded. All told, Hanigan had three hits in his Colorado debut.

"It was a fun day for me, for sure," Hanigan told reporters after the game, exercising a nice bit of veteran humility.

With the win, Colorado upped its lead in the National League West to 1 1/2 games over Arizona. It's very early, but sometimes surprise contenders need surprise contributions. And when they come, it can be one of the standout moments of the season. Even if Hanigan does nothing else in his Colorado stint, this one game might have a major impact in a close race a few months from now.

More netting, please: By now, most of you have likely seen the scary scene at San Diego, when Sanchez's bat flew out of his hands and struck a woman in the face. You had to feel for Sanchez, who anxiously watched the woman receive aid during the 13-minute delay that resulted from the incident. When I was at new SunTrust Park in Atlanta recently, one of the things you noticed is that the netting there extends all the way to the ends of the dugouts.

Eventually, given how many incidents like this there are with foul balls and the occasional bat, that might need to become standard procedure. The Padres issued a statement after the game, wishing the woman and her husband, who also was hit by the bat, well and stating, "Last season, we extended our backstop netting in accordance with Major League Baseball's recommendations. Any injury at the ballpark warrants evaluation and discussion of current practices."

According to reports after the game, the woman and her husband were doing OK.

Just in time for Mother's Day: Milwaukee's Jesus Aguilar hit his first career homer during the Brewers' 5-4 win at St. Louis, the dinger coming in his 100th career at-bat. That's got to be a pretty special ball for Aguilar, so what is he going to do with it? Give it to Mom, of course.

Better late than never? Back in 2008, Tampa Bay took Tim Beckham with the top overall pick in the draft. Among the players taken later in that round -- and, admittedly, it's not fair to do this -- was Buster Posey.

Ah well. Beckham hasn't reached those heights, but maybe he's finally coming around at age 27. Beckham homered twice in the Rays' 5-1 win over Miami, his second two-homer game in eight days. He had zero in his first 171 career games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Grounded birds The Cardinals lost two outfielders in their loss to Milwaukee. Dexter Fowler strained his right shoulder diving for a ball in center field, and Stephen Piscotty strained his right hamstring running to first base. Strapped for bodies, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny sent shortstop Aledmys Diaz to left, his first outfield appearance. Diaz handled one fly ball without incident.

As for the injured players, neither will travel with the team for their weekend series with Atlanta. The Cardinals haven't announced a roster move yet, but according to reports, minor league outfielder Tommy Pham was pulled from his game Thursday and is headed for Georgia.