DENVER -- Chris Nelson may be a late bloomer, but the Rockies have reveled in watching him blossom over the course of his breakout third season in the big leagues.
The Rockies' top Draft pick in 2004, Nelson has more than doubled his big league experience in 2012, playing in his 101st game Friday against the D-backs after suiting up 80 times in his previous two seasons combined.
The opportunity to play on a regular basis has led to career highs with a .292 average, nine homers, and 47 RBIs, despite two trips to the disabled list with an inflamed left wrist (May 15-31) and an irregular heartbeat (July 16-Aug. 6).
"Chris Nelson is putting together a pretty solid season for himself, there's no getting around it," manager Jim Tracy said. "There's no question of his defensive capabilities, but I think he has taken a step forward offensively.
"He has always been and continues to be one of the better two-strike hitters we have on the club. But I think what he has added to his arsenal is that he's looking to do a lot more damage when he gets himself into favorable counts."
Nelson led the Majors with a .560 average (14-for-25) last week, earning National League Player of the Week honors, the first Rockie to be so recognized this season.
Nelson hit in every game he played during the week, extending an eight-game hitting streak during which he hit .532 with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight RBIs, and eight runs scored.
"He's doing a much better job with early-count pitches that say, 'Be hit, and be hit hard,'" Tracy said. "If he gets himself into a favorable count, because he's worked himself into that, he's working to be much more aggressive when he gets himself into those situations. We're beginning to see much of that on a consistent basis as of late."
Though Nelson's previous opportunities had come primarily at second base, he's made 57 of 75 starts at third base this year, giving the Rockies a level of comfort at the position they haven't had in some time.
Jordan Pacheco has made the majority of starts at third with 80, but has become the Rockies primary first baseman after injuries to Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer.
"Of all the infield positions, you know you could play [Nelson] at second, you could play him at short in a pinch, but that is his best spot right there [at third]," Tracy said. "He has a tremendous first step, both to the line and to the hole, and a throwing arm that you could arguably say will stand up to any name you want to come up with that plays third base."
CarGo sits again with hamstring tightness
DENVER -- Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez missed his third start in the past four days Friday, a day after leaving the series finale in San Francisco with a tight left hamstring.
"I felt it grabbing me when we were playing San Diego, when I hit the double in my first at-bat," Gonzalez said of the injury, initially sustained last Sunday. "I tried to play through it. I wasn't feeling comfortable, so I rested a couple days."
CarGo made it through five innings Sunday, then missed starts Monday and Tuesday before playing Wednesday, when he said the circumstances never presented him with an opportunity to run at 100 percent.
Thursday's game in San Francisco, however, gave him an immediate challenge.
"I was just pacing myself until [Thursday], in my first at bat, when I hit that hard ground ball to second base," Gonzalez said before Friday's series opener against the D-backs. "I tried to avoid the double play, and when I tried to go 100 percent, that's when I felt it."
Gonzalez said he feels the hamstring grabbing behind his left knee, and doesn't feel comfortable playing with it at the moment, though he's optimistic about getting back on the field.
"It's a day-to-day type thing," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "There's a possibility it could be a couple days. I could tell he was favoring it badly when he hit the ground ball yesterday in the first inning. He was actually dragging his leg as he went to first base."
Gonzalez has been one of the most consistent players for an injury-riddled Rockies roster this season. He is hitting .304 (157-for-516) with 89 runs, 85 RBIs, 22 homers and 20 steals, while playing in 133 of Colorado's 150 games.
Though he's missed stretches while nursing injuries, Gonzalez has stayed off the disabled list and became the first Rockie to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in three seasons.
"I wanted to play the whole year without getting hurt," a frustrated Gonzalez said. "It was one of my goals, especially coming off of last year when I battled almost the whole second half with my wrist injury. I really want to be in the starting lineup every day. Finish what I started. Finish my season strong and stay in the game for the rest of the year."
Rockies celebrate 60-millionth fan
DENVER -- At times, the Rockies 2012 season has been a slow go, as the Rockies have built a 58-91 record in their 20th season, the "Year of the Fan."
But in a season filled with the promise of emerging young position players, the turnstiles have never stopped turning at a record-setting pace, and Friday night the Rockies reached a Mile High milestone as the fastest franchise to reach 60 million in paid attendance, doing so in their 1,582nd home game.
About five minutes before the first pitch against the D-backs, Barbara and Bill Ormsby walked through Gate C as fans No. 60 million and 60 million and one. They were greeted by Rockies owner Dick Monfort, who presented them with 2013 season tickets, a commemorative Rockies jersey with the number "60 Million" on the back, and VIP seats to Friday's game.
"I knew it was going on," Barbara Ormsby said of the special moment in Rockies history. "I got an e-mail because of being season ticket holders, but I thought I had no chance, no way. I couldn't believe it."
The Ormsbys share their season ticket plan with their son and daughter, and unlike fans who divide games up among a dozen friends or so, Barbara and Bill Ormsby came to 40 games this season, joining 2,415,680 other Rockies fans through the first 74 games with seven left to play.
"It's been a little rough," Barbara said of the season of struggles for her Rockies. "You just keep looking at the new players and hoping everybody's going to come along."
The Rockies youth brigade has given the Ormsbys plenty to cheer about, with the likes of catcher Wilin Rosario, corner infielder Jordan Pacheco, and middle infielers Josh Rutledge and DJ LeMahieu giving hope to all those who can't wait 'til next year.
Monfort was glad to see that the randomly selected fans turned out to be a couple with such serious purple pride.
"You've got a lot of people that come tonight because it's a fireworks game," Monfort said. "You want them to be fans. You waited for a couple with a little purple on, fans, and you grab them. It's not an exact science, but they look like they're very happy."
The Rockies have a long history of happy fans pouring into their home park, having set the single game attendance record of 80,227 at their first ever home game on April 9, 1993, the single season attendance record of 4,483,350 in their inaugural season at Mile High Stadium, and having posted a 203-game home sellout streak at Coors Field from June 13, 1995 to September 5, 1997.
The Ormsbys have only had their season tickets for a couple years -- make it three in 2013 -- but they've been fans all along, and as exciting as their distinction was Friday night, it couldn't top their personal highlight on Blake and 20th St.
"We were here [for the game] when the Rockies won the National League pennant and went to the World Series [in 2007]," Barbara recalled. "It was so exciting. There was a guy selling hot chocolate in the stands who broke into tears."
To their children, who lost out on the perfect night for baseball fans, Barbara Ormsby had a message.
"Too bad, so sad," she said.
But a tip to the next generation of purple-clad Ormsbys: Monfort gave the couple four tickets to Friday's game, so perhaps it's not too late to call mom.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.