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A tough time for Gonzalez

Sox first baseman finishes 0 for 5

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 31, 2011

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The first three times he went to the plate in last night’s 5-2 loss to the Yankees at Fenway Park, Adrian Gonzalez followed the same path back to the Red Sox dugout, striking out all three times against CC Sabathia.

The second time Sabathia sat down Gonzalez, it took the burly Yankees lefthander just three pitches to do the trick as he fed the Sox first baseman three sliders.

Gonzalez finished the game 0 for 5 and was responsible for stranding five of the 16 runners the Sox left on base.

It was not the way Gonzalez wanted to start his week after being named American League Player of the Week, hitting .393 (11 for 28) with a double, five home runs, nine RBIs, and eight runs scored in seven games last week.

“I went out with a gameplan to see some pitches,’’ said Gonzalez, who entered the game with a career .238 batting average (5 for 21) with one homer and five RBIs vs. Sabathia. “And right off the bat, I took a fastball away that was off the plate and was called [a strike] and it put me more in a swinging mentality, and so I chased a lot more pitches out of the zone after that.’’

And, from the first pitch he saw from Sabathia to the last, Gonzalez was on his heels.

But, Gonzalez said, it wasn’t so much Sabathia’s work on the mound as it was the judgment of home plate umpire Ed Rapuano.

“I feel that Eddie’s a great umpire,’’ Gonzalez said. “But tonight he was calling pitches off the plate away to lefties, and it made it a lot tougher.’’

Seven of the 10 strikeouts Sabathia recorded last night came against the Nos. 3-4-5 hitters in the Sox lineup.

Asked what made Sabathia’s slider so effective last night, Gonzalez replied, “You had to worry about the fastball away. You chase those pitches when you’re conscious of a pitch off the plate away that you have to cover.’’

And it was a pitch, it seemed, every lefthander had to chase.

“For that reason,’’ Gonzalez said.

What pained him, though, was going back to the dugout after leaving runners on base.

Gonzalez stranded Marco Scutaro with his first-inning strikeout, went down swinging on three pitches with one out and the bases empty in the third, then struck out on five pitches (fanning on another slider for strike three) with runners on second and third.

It killed a two-run rally in the fourth, which wound up being the only runs the Sox would score as the Yankees pulled within a half-game of Boston’s lead atop the American League East.

“The only thing that matters is that we go into the playoffs healthy,’’ Gonzalez said. “Losing [tonight] really doesn’t matter. We can come back and win the series the next two days and keep playing good baseball.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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