Commentary

Adrian Gonzalez has Red Sox surging

Updated: May 17, 2011, 8:16 AM ET
By Steven Krasner | Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The right man was at the plate at the right time Monday night for the suddenly surging Boston Red Sox.

That hitter was Adrian Gonzalez. No one in the majors has been as hot at the plate, or more productive, than Gonzalez.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Gonzalez
AP Photo/Charles KrupaAfter his two-run walk-off double Monday, Adrian Gonzalez leads the American League with 37 RBIs.

He wasn't much for milking the moment. He liked the first pitch he saw from Baltimore closer Kevin Gregg and crushed it high off the Green Monster, so high that after Jacoby Ellsbury easily scored from second base, Dustin Pedroia, chugging hard from first, also scored without a throw, giving the Red Sox a stirring 8-7 come-from-behind victory over the Orioles on a raw, often misty night at Fenway Park.

Gonzalez's walk-off double provided Boston with its fourth win in a row, moving the Red Sox over the .500 mark (21-20) for the first time all season.

And it capped a gritty comeback from a 6-0 sixth-inning deficit.

Boston finally showed signs of offensive life in the sixth, pushing across five runs, thanks in part to a Baltimore error. Gonzalez (RBI single) and Kevin Youkilis (two-run double) authored the key two-out hits, making it a 6-5 game.

It was 7-6 Baltimore entering the bottom of the ninth, but one-out walks to Ellsbury and Pedroia set the stage for Gonzalez.

"I actually felt like we deserved to win the game," manager Terry Francona said. "We had some really good at-bats. We weren't rewarded for all of them, but we kept battling."

"Everybody looks at Adrian's hit as the big one," said Jed Lowrie, who contributed a double and a triple, "but there were a lot of other hits those last few innings that were all big hits, too. We had a lot of baserunners, and that stuff adds up."

"We just took it one at-bat at a time," added Youkilis, who had a pair of doubles, knocking in two runs. "With a lineup like this one, things can happen real quick. We had great at-bats, got on base, we got close and we kept scrapping back. Our lineup is so deep you can't go to sleep on us. We're not going to sneak up on anybody."

"This is not unlikely," Gonzalez said. "We have a team that is capable of doing this."

No one in the lineup is more capable of delivering the big hit than Gonzalez, the first baseman the Sox traded for in the offseason and then signed to a seven-year, $154 million extension.

It took Gonzalez a little while to get going. His average was solid, but his production wasn't particularly impressive. But since May 2, Gonzalez has been on fire, especially at home, where he has begun to pepper the Green Monster in ways that were envisioned when the left-handed hitter first put on a Red Sox uniform.

Over his past 14 games, Gonzalez has racked up eight homers, four doubles and 22 RBIs. He added three more RBIs Monday night, having dropped a soft run-scoring single into left with two outs in the sixth, cutting Boston's deficit to 6-3.

Gonzalez leads the American League in RBIs with 37 in 41 games.

"It has been impressive," said Lowrie of watching Gonzalez hit, especially the past two weeks. "He makes it look so easy."

Nothing was easy for the Sox early Monday night. They were blanked for five innings by Baltimore right-hander Chris Tillman. But once he went out, Boston began feasting on the bullpen.

Not that the Sox were as productive as they could have been. Through eight innings they stranded 14 baserunners. Gonzalez wasn't perfect, either. In the seventh, with Boston down 7-6, Gonzalez batted with two outs and runners at first and second. He struck out.

So heading to the ninth, the Sox still were down by a run. Ellsbury walked with one out, and Pedroia, who has been mired in a slump for the past month, battled Gregg. He went from an 0-and-2 count to 3-and-2. He fouled off three pitches, one of which would have been a tying double if the wind hadn't pushed it into the seats down the left-field line.

Finally, after Ellsbury swiped second base, Pedroia drew a walk.

"That's the thing about Pedey," Francona said. "When he's not at his best, you still get a great at-bat from him when the game's on the line."

Gonzalez watched the Ellsbury and Pedroia at-bats carefully. He had a plan as he stepped into the batter's box.

"I knew he definitely was going to try to get ahead with something," said Gonzalez, whose 3-for-5 night boosted his average to .327.

"I was looking for a fastball away. I wanted to be ready for it and stay behind it. He threw me a get-me-over slider away and I was able to drive it."

Gonzalez dropped the bat head on Gregg's pitch with one of his beautiful, seemingly effortless swings, and the ball took flight for the tin in left. As it left Gonzalez' bat, and with Pedroia getting a great jump off first base, there was no doubt when it careened off the Monster that Gonzalez had just struck the fifth walk-off hit of his career.

Steven Krasner is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

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