'Ichiro' Gonzalez? Believe it

May, 15, 2011
5/15/11
12:49
AM ET
NEW YORK -- This will only add to the myth-making and legend-embellishing that is certain to accompany Adrian Gonzalez’s first season with the Red Sox, if this keeps up. It won’t be long, at this rate, before the Sox start drawing up plans to add another statue next to the one of another left-handed hitting machine from San Diego.

Giddiness becomes the order of the day when Gonzalez tells manager Terry Francona that he plans to swing like Ichiro on his fourth at-bat against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, who had handled him with ease to that point, then hits a three-run home run into the right-field seats.

“He amazes me,’’ Francona said after Gonzalez hit his fifh home run in his last four games and seventh in his last 11 to turn a close game into a 6-0 romp over the Yankees. “When you say you’re going to do it and then you do it, that’s pretty impressive.’’

Here’s how the conversation in the dugout went, according to Francona.

“He said he was going to have a little bit of Ichiro in him, a little bit of a leap,’’ Francona said. ‘’He said, ‘Do you have a problem with that?’ I said, ‘Not if you get a hit.’ ’’

How did the slugging Gonzalez model himself after the slap-hitting Ichiro Suzuki? He leaked, in the parlance of the game, starting his swing early in order to catch up with the high fastballs with which Sabathia was pounding him inside.

“When pitchers are beating me in,’’ Gonzalez said, “that’s what I do to create a little room inside, to make sure I don’t miss fastballs in.

“He was pounding me in. I wasn’t picking up the ball well. I was swinging at pitches I didn’t want to swing at. It’d be dumb of me to go up and try the same approach again.’’

The first two Sox hitters, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, had reached safely and were at the corners when Gonzalez came to the plate the first time. Sabathia struck him out with a neck-high fastball. The Yankee left-hander broke Gonzalez’s bat on his next two plate appearances, the second resulting in an inning-ending double play after Yankee manager Joe Girardi ordered Pedroia intentionally walked to load the bases.

“I would have done the same thing,’’ Gonzalez said. “Did you see the way I wasn’t picking up the ball? CC is a really tough pitcher against left-handed hitters. It’s a smart managerial move.’’

There were two outs and two on when Gonzalez came to the plate in the seventh inning after filling in Francona on his plan.

“I told him because he’s never seen me do it,’’ Gonzalez said. “Normally I don’t. I’ve probably done it in San Diego like 10 at-bats, but he’s never seen me do it. If I go up there and do it, he might be, ‘What’s this guy doing?’ ’’

So, did he get the raised eyebrows from the manager?

“He said, ‘You can try whatever you want, as long as you get a hit,’ ’’ Gonzalez said.

With a 1-and-0 count, Gonzalez went Japanese on Sabathia, jumping on another high fastball. The result was his ninth home run of the season, and raised his league-leading RBI total to 34, including a dozen in the last six games.

“How about that?’’ Francona said. “He even looked a little bit like Icihiro.’’

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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