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Homer: A swing of beauty

Gonzalez strikes blow in the fifth

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 6, 2012
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He hit a pop foul to third in his first at-bat in the first inning, then ripped a run-scoring single that gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in the third inning.

But it wasn’t until his third appearance at the plate that Adrian Gonzalez struck a blow that gave his teammates some much-needed breathing room in Sunday’s 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Gonzalez, who had drawn some interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the non-waiver trade deadline, once again demonstrated his opposite-field power with a swing tailor-made for Fenway Park when he belted a 2-and-1 fastball from Twins starter Nick Blackburn into the Green Monster seats to give the Sox a 4-1 lead in the fifth.

“Just trying to put a good swing on the ball,’’ Gonzalez said. “It gave us a little separation and gave us a three-run lead rather than a one-run lead and we were able to add those two runs [later] that we needed.’’

Gonzalez’s 11th homer of the season highlighted his 2-for-3, three-RBI effort, marking his sixth multi-hit performance in his last nine games and 19th in 37 games since June 23, a torrid stretch in which he has led the American League with a .393 average.

It was little wonder the Dodgers were interested in Gonzalez’s services.

Did it come as a surprise to him, though?

“No, because teams are going to ask about any player they think could help their team win,’’ said Gonzalez, who is in the first year of a seven-year $154 million contract that will pay him $21 million per over the first five years of the deal.

“I’ve been traded three times now and I know what rumors are all about,’’ he said. “Teams are going to call and check in on players. I know how the whole baseball end of it works.’’

Gonzalez regarded it more as a compliment than a distraction.

“Absolutely,’’ he said. “If teams are interested in you, they’re trying to better their team, and if they feel like you’re the guy, they’re going to call a team about it.

“But obviously I’m here, I’m happy to be here, and I don’t want to go anywhere. But that’s not my decision to make.’’

Given his performance Sunday, though, the Sox might want to hang onto Gonzalez. In this four-game series against the Twins, he went 6 for 13 with two runs, four RBIs, three walks, and, oh yes, one waiting-to-exhale homer.

“Oh, man, he’s capable of doing that every at-bat,’’ said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. “We expect that from him and he expects that of himself. But this park is the perfect place for him. When he’s going really well, he’s hitting the ball to the middle of the field and to the left side. And he’s been doing that a lot lately.’’

He’s done it with runners in scoring position, to boot, entering Sunday’s game with a major league-leading .408 batting average with RISP.

“The only issue for me here is when I hit it that way [to the opposite field] is it high enough?’’ Gonzalez said. “Because when I hit balls over there, they’re line drives and not high fly balls. Sometimes they’re not high enough and luckily today it was.’’

Since the All-Star break, Gonzalez has hit five homers. All of them will have special meaning since Gonzalez will be donating $5,000 to the Jimmy Fund for every homer he hits in the second half of the season.

“I mean, it’s always good to have a reason to donate,’’ he said. “Hopefully, there’ll be a lot more money to be donated.’’

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

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