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Orioles 6, Red Sox 2

Swings and a miss

Slumping Gonzalez, Red Sox fall as the Orioles power up

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 20, 2011

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BALTIMORE - It is tradition to blame the Home Run Derby if any of the contestants falls into a slump afterward, as though the act of hitting a baseball for distance somehow ruins a player’s ability to hit one over the second baseman’s head for a single.

Adrian Gonzalez doesn’t buy it.

The Red Sox star was hitless in four at-bats last night in a 6-2 loss against the Baltimore Orioles, leaving him 2 for 24 since returning from the All-Star Game and his second-place finish in the Derby.

He has driven in one run in the five games and struck out seven times. The slump has dropped his batting average from .354 to .337.

“I don’t think the Home Run Derby has anything to do with it,’’ Gonzalez said flatly, swatting the question out of the park.

Gonzalez believes his timing is just a little off, the product of a break in his routine more than anything else. That has led to his checking his swing and appearing indecisive at the plate.

“I’m getting ready late, not recognizing pitches and swinging at pitches that I normally wouldn’t swing at, chasing sliders down in the zone that I usually just take no problem,’’ he said. “When I get a pitch, I foul it off. That’s all it is. It’s not a big deal.’’

Gonzalez grounded out twice and struck out twice last night. He hit the ball hard in his first at-bat but second baseman Blake Davis made a diving play.

Gonzalez had similar misfortune against the Rays on Sunday night, hitting a ball inches foul to left field that otherwise would have been an RBI double. On Saturday a ball to left field fell a few inches short of being a home run.

The solution?

“Stop thinking about it,’’ Gonzalez said. “Nothing changes. The worst thing to do is panic and that’s not something I’ll ever do. I’ve been through too many of these 2-for-whatever it is to know it’s a long season.’’

Gonzalez spoke in similar terms in April when he was hitting .244 after 12 games. He quickly built a résumé that will have him in MVP consideration.

“He was hitting .360. I just don’t think you can do that all year,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Not very many guys [do]. Sometimes you go through periods when you’re not seeing [the ball] as good as you were. That’ll get back. He was at such a pace, a torrid pace.’’

Gonzalez wasn’t alone last night. Job-seeking Josh Reddick was 3 for 4 and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-run homer. But the Sox otherwise had four singles and did little against Jeremy Guthrie (4-13) and Jim Johnson.

Rookie Kyle Weiland (0-1) was solid for the Sox in his second start, giving up three runs in six innings with three walks and two strikeouts. He left trailing, 3-2.

“I thought he represented himself very well,’’ Francona said.

Weiland’s debut came against the Orioles nine days earlier at Fenway Park. He allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks that day before being ejected in the fifth inning for hitting Vladimir Guerrero.

“This outing was a lot different than the last one,’’ Weiland said. “I had a different repertoire. I wasn’t pulling my fastball like I did, so I was able to get ahead of a few more guys.’’

Said Francona: “I thought it was more of the way he pitches. He was down a lot more.’’

With Jon Lester scheduled to come off the disabled list and start on Monday, Weiland soon could return to Triple A Pawtucket. But the rookie has shown he’s a viable candidate for future opportunities.

Weiland gave up two runs in the second. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters started the inning with singles. Mark Reynolds had an RBI double to left field with one out, connecting on a changeup. Wieters then scored when Nolan Reimold grounded to shortstop with the infield back.

Baltimore scored a run with two outs in the third. Nick Markakis walked and came around on singles by Jones and Wieters.

The usually reliable Alfredo Aceves allowed two home runs in the eighth to take the Sox out of the game. Derrek Lee belted a two-run shot to right-center and Reynolds followed with a solo shot to left-center.

Saltalamacchia homered in the fifth. The Sox did not advance a runner past first base again. They had won seven straight against the Orioles, scoring 61 runs.

With the Yankees losing, the Sox maintained their 1 1/2-game lead in the division. They finish a six-game road trip this afternoon with Andrew Miller on the mound against Jake Arrieta. The Sox are 3-2 on the trip.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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