Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado is sizzling, Rockies’ return is a mixed bag


Nolan Arenado returns to Coors Field Tuesday night, 555 days since he was traded from the Rockies to St. Louis in a trade that shook Colorado baseball fans to their core and sparked World Series dreams for Cardinals nation.

Nolan is being, well, Nolan. On Monday, he was named National League player of the week for the second time this season.

As for the five players the Rockies received in the trade — left-hander Austin Gomber, corner infielder Elehuris Montero, infielder Mateo Gil and right-handers Tony Locey and Jake Sommers — their performance has been decidedly mixed.

The Cardinals (60-48) enter Tuesday’s game having won seven consecutive games to overtake Milwaukee for first place in the National League Central. They’ve been led by Arenado, the nine-time Gold Glove third baseman who continues playing like he’ll be enshrined in Cooperstown some day.

In six games last week, Arenado hit .476 (10-for-21), with three homers, eight RBIs and a 1.560 OPS. He drove in four runs on Sunday to cement the Cardinals’ three-game sweep of the Yankees at Busch Stadium. For the season, Arenado is slashing .301/.370/.551 with 22 home runs, 26 doubles and 68 RBIs.

Though he’s being overshadowed by teammate Paul Goldschmidt, Arenado could finish in the top five in the NL MVP voting for the fourth time in his career. Goldschmidt is having an incredible season, slashing .332/.415/.614 with 25 home runs and 30 doubles.

“Sometimes (Arenado) can just will things to happen, and the look in his eye right now is pretty special,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol told last week. “We’ve got two guys (in Arenado and Goldschmidt) who are having pretty incredible seasons on all sides of it — defensively and offensively. They’re contributing at an incredibly high level.”

The Rockies (48-63) have struggled mightily since the All-Star break, going 5-13, and are mired in last place in the NL West. A positive slice of good news is that Montero is getting significant playing time and he’s translating his promise into results.

Montero, 23, was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque last Tuesday for his fourth stint in the majors this season. He had a hit in all six games since his call-up, going 9-for-21 (.429).

Montero was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI single Sunday in Colorado’s 6-4 loss at Arizona. He recorded his first two career RBIs on Friday and launched his first big-league home run on Saturday.

“The hope is at 23 that he continues to build on seeing big league pitchers, understanding what it’s going to take to be a professional hitter at this level,” manager Bud Black told reporters in Arizona. “I think he’s capable. He’s got the physical skill set to do it, to impact the ball. The upside is (his) average, power, with an on-base component.”

Gomber started out hot last season before faltering and going on the injured list on Sept. 4 with a stress fracture of the bones of the lower spine (pars defect). Still, he went 9-9 with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.204 WHIP in 24 starts with Colorado.

This season, Gomber, 28, has struggled and has spent time in the bullpen. In 21 games (16 starts) he’s 5-7 with a 5.64 ERA and a 1.408 WHIP.


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