You know Luis Gonzalez’s stance. It is as open as Circle K. As the Alaskan interior. Just before the All-Star break, Gonzalez and Mike Aldrete noticed a film session that his stance had closed just a tad, necessitating a slight readjustment to the norm.
“In this game,’’ Gonzalez said, “sometimes it’s just a little thing.”
Gonzalez has turned into a big deal since, and he was at it again in a 8-7, 11-inning victory over Houston, singling in the D-Backs’ first run before doubling and scoring their last before 43,201 at Minute Maid Park.
Gonzalez led off the 11th inning against surprise reliever Andy Pettitte and doubled to deep left before the D-Backs did some by-the-book situational hitting, Chad Tracy’s grounder to the right side moving Gonzalez to third and Johnny Estrada’s sacrifice fly making reliever Tony Pena a winner for the second time on this trip.
“Just trying to get on base and manufacture a run any way I can,’’ Gonzalez said.
“I know he has a good cutter (fastball),’’ Estrada said of Pettitte, making his first relief appearance since Sept. 25, 1998, after the Astros already used four relievers.
“I just choked up a lot and was trying to keep a nice, short stroke and drive it to the outfield.’’
Gonzalez increased his hitting streak to a season-high eight games, all while batting in his old standby No. 3 spot in the order. He has 25 hits in his last 57 at-bats, a .439 stretch that has improved his average to a season-high .287.
“The second half is when you know your team needs you,’’ said Gonzalez, whose team closed to within 1 1/2 games of San Diego in the NL West.
“Just a great game. We end up getting big hits,’’ said manager Bob Melvin after the D-Backs had 17 hits, one short of a season high. “Gonzo got the hit, Chad got him over and Johnny got him in. That’s how you win ball games. When you don’t do it, that’s how you lose ball games.’’ The D-Backs (52-50) just offset Houston rookie right fielder Luke Scott, who hit for the cycle and drove in five runs, three on his first major league home run.
“Who’s that Scott guy, man? He was flying low, under the radar. Not any more. Congratulations to that guy. It’s not easy to hit for the cycle,’’ said Gonzalez, who did it in this park in 2000.
While Scott provided some oomph for the Astros, D-Backs youngbloods Pena, Carlos Quentin and Stephen Drew again made an imprint.
Pena struck out two in two innings to drop his ERA in his four appearances to 1.17, getting pinch-hitter Lance Berkman to ground out to first base on a 3-2 change-up to end the game with the tying run on first.
Pena threw six straight 95-96 mph fastballs to Berkman before the final-out change-up, which still registered 86 mph on the stadium speed gun.
“What separates the guys with 95, 96 mph arms is locating it. He can locate it inside, outside. He’s impressive,’’ Estrada said.
It was Pena’s second win/save combination, with a similar two-inning performance in a 6-5 victory over Philadelphia on the first game of the trip Tuesday.
Quentin’s two-run, pinch-hit home run gave the D-Backs a 7-4 lead, their second three-run lead of the game. The Astros scored twice in the seventh and tied it on an unearned run after a Drew error in the eighth gave them an extra out. Drew had two hits.
Quentin has four homers in 16 major league at-bats.
“It seems like he is getting quality at-bats and big hits for us every time,” said Melvin, who added that Quentin would start today.
“We’ve thrown them in the heat, and they’ve stepped up big for us,’’ Gonzalez said.