Adrian Gonzalez said he unraveled no great mystery when he went 3 for 4 with a two-run double that opened the floodgates in the Red Sox’ 7-0 win Thursday night over the Baltimore Orioles.
The Gold Glove first baseman, who started in right field for the 11th time this season before shifting to first in the eighth inning, said his performance hitting in the No. 6 hole for the second consecutive game had little to do with his position in Bobby Valentine’s lineup.
“Where I hit in the lineup doesn’t have anything to do with how I do,’’ said Gonzalez, who went 1 for 3 in Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Orioles. “It doesn’t have anything to do with anything else, either. It’s just finding hits, and balls finding holes.’’
As far as Gonzalez was concerned, his performance was no more complicated than that. But Valentine suggested it was the result of Gonzalez’s concerted effort to take the first pitch, especially when he came to the plate with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the first. Gonzalez ripped a double down the line in right, scoring Dustin Pedroia, who had walked, and Kevin Youkilis, who reached on a single to left.
“He took the first two pitches,’’ Valentine said. “He’s been swinging at that first pitch so often with men in scoring position that he hasn’t gotten into the at-bat. He got into the at-bat tonight and got RBIs on a double down the line and followed that up with all good at-bats.’’
Gonzalez, however, disagreed with his manager.
“It had nothing to do with taking pitches,’’ Gonzalez said. “I’ve been taking the first pitch, for what - the last 5, 6, 7 games. The next pitch was a ball, but I was ready to swing after the first pitch. Nothing changed.’’
The double was Gonzalez’s 21st of the season, which leads the American League.
“He’s going to hit regardless,’’ David Ortiz said of Gonzalez. “He’s a good hitter. We all walk into that kind of stuff, but we always figure a way to get out of it.’’
Asked how he felt Gonzalez had handled being pushed down in the lineup, Ortiz said, “Sometimes you need that kind of stuff, so you can take some pressure off. With guys like Adrian and myself, pitchers try not to make mistakes against us, so we got to be patient. I think once you walk into that spot, you just try to stay up [at bat] longer.’’
Gonzalez, who also singled and scored in the third inning, felt gratified the Sox offense was able to help Clay Buchholz one night after giving Josh Beckett just one run of support.
“A lot of people put a lot of emphasis on late runs in tight games,’’ Gonzalez said. “But if you give an early lead to a pitcher then they can get into a groove and work on getting ahead of hitters and Buch did an unbelievable job. It was nice to get the runs for him, but it would’ve been nice to be able to do it for Josh, because he threw a hell of a game.’’
After his performance Thursday night, Gonzalez repeated his simple mantra when asked what he had worked on.
“Finding holes,’’ he said.