Gonzales plays road warrior for Cardinals

St. Louis' No. 5 prospect holds St. Lucie to one run over six innings

Marco Gonzales has racked up 19 strikeouts against four walks over 17 2/3 innings this season. (Palm Beach Cardinals)

By Mark Emery / MiLB.com | April 23, 2014 12:50 AM ET

The old saying "there's no place like home" isn't applying to St. Louis' Marco Gonzales early in the season.

Coming off a rough home outing for Class A Advanced Palm Beach, the southpaw delivered another strong start on the road Tuesday against St. Lucie. Ultimately, the Mets rallied to a 6-5 win once he left.

"I think two weeks ago I was a little more relaxed," Gonzales said. "Last outing, I was a little bit more amped up. Pitching at home, I got a little jittery. Tonight, my focus was just to throw strikes and get my curveball to spots, not try to be too fine. That's where I got into trouble in my last outing. I was trying to paint the corners and be too perfect and stuff.

"Tonight, really, I was just trying to make my pitches and throw it over the plate and let hitters get themselves out. That worked in my favor."

On Tuesday, the Cardinals' No. 5 prospect allowed one run on three hits and a walk while tying a career high with seven strikeouts over six innings and didn't factor into the decision.

After winning his debut April 9 with a scoreless five-inning outing at Bradenton, Gonzales struggled in his second start, getting tagged for five runs -- three earned -- on nine hits over 6 2/3 frames at Roger Dean Stadium against the Marauders on April 15.

The Cardinals' first-rounder (19th overall) watched as the Mets scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the Florida State League meeting into extra innings. Phillip Evans singled in Eudy Pina in the 12th inning to cap off the come-from-behind victory at Tradition Field.

Gonzales yielded a leadoff single before retiring 14 hitters in a row.

"My focus tonight was really just to locate all my pitches, as it is every night," he said. "My fastball and changeup were my combo for the first three or four innings, and then I mixed the curveball in after that. But really I just tried to control the zone and keep runners off base. That was my biggest goal. I was fortunate to keep the ball down and keep us in it."

The Gonzaga product's shutout bid ended when T.J. Rivera hit a solo homer with two outs in the sixth. Gonzales responded by ringing up Aderlin Rodriguez to strike out the side and end his start on a high note.

"I made a good pitch. He had a good swing. He just came out on top of the baseball," he said of Rivera's shot. "The way I ended up tonight, I'm happy with it. I'm happy with the way my body handled it. I'm trying to develop and get strong.

"For me, there are really no negatives to take away from it. In that count, I just got behind and he hit a fastball. So you know what? That's baseball."

In three outings this season, the 22-year-old is 1-1 with a 2.04 ERA. He has racked up 19 strikeouts against four walks over 17 2/3 innings.

Gonzales appeared in eight games last season -- four with the Rookie-level GCL Cardinals and four with Palm Beach. In eight games (six starts), he fashioned a 2.70 ERA with 23 strikeouts and eight walks over 23 1/3 innings.

"This is my first full season and so I'm getting the feel of that," he said. "I feel strong. You've just got to give yourself the opportunity to pitch and you get that by being healthy. So everything is really positive as of right now and I'm looking forward to the next start."

Mark Emery is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Emery. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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