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Gonzalez turns it all around

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 4, 2011

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Adrian Gonzalez is on a tear — he’s hitting .405 (17 for 42) during a 10-game streak with 11 RBIs. He’s batting .533 (8 for 15) with runners in scoring position over the streak and he is hitting .321 with nine RBIs vs. the Angels.

Yet before he homered in the eighth inning of last night’s 7-3 win over Los Angeles, many were wondering when he’d hit his first Fenway Park round-tripper.

Gonzalez had played 14 games at Fenway, a ballpark seemingly suited for his swing. But until last night, he had yet to go yard. And when he did, it was to right.

By contrast, David Ortiz, who loves to pull the ball, has been stroking the ball to the opposite field regularly, including blasting a home run to left Monday night. When told he and Gonzalez had it all backward, Ortiz just laughed.

Gonzalez’s home run was his first since going deep April 6 in Cleveland, 96 at-bats ago.

It’s too early to be concerned, but wasn’t this supposed to be the year of the Gonzalez laser show at Fenway?

Who’s going to really complain? Gonzalez got Boston on the scoreboard against Dan Haren, who was leading, 1-0, when the first baseman drove in Jacoby Ellsbury with a single to left-center in the sixth. Gonzalez did indeed go the other way, but it just didn’t hit or go over the Monster. Do we really care where he hits the ball? He’s hitting .316 with 11 doubles and 20 RBIs. Does it matter that he has two homers?

Gonzalez said last week in Baltimore that he hadn’t felt comfortable at the plate up to that point. Since then, he looks real comfortable. While the ball isn’t flying out of the park, it sure is flying around the park. Gonzalez is starting to be the threat the Sox envisioned when they signed him to seven-year, $154 million extension in April.

It’s important to remember that Gonzalez is coming off major shoulder surgery. Although Gonzalez says he’s fine, there has to be some break-in period. So patience must be preached when it comes to his power numbers. It may not come about this early, but by June and July, Gonzalez should be cranking.

Gonzalez is such a student of hitting that it wasn’t surprising to see him collect two big hits off Haren.

“You see him a couple of times . . . we made an adjustment,’’ Gonzalez said. “We started being more aggressive in the strike zone and we put balls in play that snuck through. They kept battling and luckily we got hits at the same time.’’

There were two outs when Gonzalez came up in the sixth. His single delivered Ellsbury and prevented Haren from working his way out of yet another jam.

“He’d been moving the ball in and out, so just stay on anything,’’ Gonzalez told himself. “Stay on any pitch and stay through the zone. Don’t roll over on his two-seamer or split.’’

And he initially had no idea whether Ellsbury, even with his blazing speed, was going to score on his single through the shortstop hole.

“I rounded the base hard just in case I had to run myself into an out [to get the run home],’’ said Gonzalez. “I touched first base and took a look and knew he was going to beat the play so I didn’t have to be aggressive. I didn’t have to force a throw at second.’’

He felt he had a chance to do something because of Ellsbury’s speed.

“Just getting [Haren] to the stretch and putting a guy like Ellsbury on, he has to be a little more hesitant because of his speed,’’ Gonzalez said. “Ellsbury puts more pressure on the pitcher.’’

That was a big hit because it tied the game and showed Haren was hittable. Jed Lowrie followed with the go-ahead hit. Gonzalez led off the eighth with a long homer off Haren. After Hisanori Takahashi relieved Haren, Ortiz greeted him by wrapping a home run around Pesky’s Pole. Later in the inning, Marco Scutaro got into the act with his first homer.

Asked whether he savored his first Fenway homer, he said, “the first one (in Cleveland) I wasn’t able to enjoy it because we lost. Today I was able to enjoy it.’’

Asked if he would savor his first Fenway blast, Gonzalez said: “The first one [of the season in Cleveland] I wasn’t able to enjoy it because we lost. Today I was able to enjoy it.’’

Everyone did.

Gonzalez has never been concerned about home runs, feeling they will come. He’s hit 30 or more homers four times in his career. In 2009, he hit 40. Even last season, when he had the damaged shoulder, he managed 31 homers. Now with the shoulder repaired it seems just a matter of time before the inside-out power emerges.

Opponents are not going to help him. Even Haren was busting him inside. But he always gets busted inside and he usually finds a way to drive the ball to the opposite field.

“He hasn’t been hitting it out, but he’s been swinging a hot bat,’’ said Lowrie. “He’s knocked in some big runs for us.’’

On Monday night, he hit a bases-loaded double to center field, knocking in three runs.

Maybe it’s not the type of production we had envisioned, but production nonetheless.

And when he finally does get his Fenway power stroke down?

“He’s gonna be amazing, man,’’ Ortiz said. “That’s gonna be fun to watch. He’s more than a power hitter. He can flat out hit.’’

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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