BOSTON -- Talk about raising expectations: In his first season with the Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez’s batting average never dipped under .300 after April 27, peaked at .360 on June 24, and was at .338 at the end of the season, 47 percentage points higher than his career batting average of .291.
This season, one in which he says he is fully recovered from the shoulder surgery that left him weakened in the second half of the season, Gonzalez’s average has not been over .300 since April 27 (.301), and was down to a season-low .262 entering play Wednesday night.
In his last 20 games, Gonzalez is batting just .210 (17 for 81), with a .226 on-base percentage, .358 slugging percentage, and OPS of .584, far below his usual standards. He has just three multihit games in that span, including a three-hit game Friday night in Toronto, and just two home runs, half of his total of 4 in the season’s first 55 games. He has walked once while striking out 20 times.
Wednesday, manager Bobby Valentine dropped Gonzalez to the No. 6 hole in the batting order, a spot in which he last started a game on Sept. 12, 2006, in his first season with San Diego.
When he is right, of course, left-handed pitchers pose no obstacle to the left-handed-hitting Gonzalez, who batted .321 against lefties last season. This year, his batting average is actually a tad higher against lefties (.267) than righties (.259).
“Adrian is a really good hitter, he just hasn't found that rhythm yet at the plate,’’ Valentine said. “He will, he will have his numbers. I'm not sure if he is going outside the strike zone, or is too anxious waiting for his pitch. I'm sure he will have a walk and a home run one of these games, and I think that will set him off.
“I don't think he is pressing. He seems pretty relaxed and prepared before every at-bat. I think the walks will come and the home runs will come; I think they are joined at the hip.’’
In 2010, Gonzalez was hitting .275 with 10 home runs, then had 9 hits in his next 17 at-bats over a four-game stretch in which he raised his average 20 points.
In ’09, he was batting .249 as late as Aug. 1, though he had 28 home runs, and finished at .277.
“Let me tell you two things,’’ David Ortiz said. "No. 1, the best thing out of the situation is just leave him alone and let him do his thing. I remember people were questioning me because No. 1, I was almost out of my deal, and No., 2, I wasn’t hitting homers. But that doesn’t help at all.
“And the worst-case scenario, he’s going to be here another five, six years. People should just leave him alone until he walks back into his groove and starts doing what he normally does. Because last year, this guy had an amazing season and it wasn’t good enough. I don’t get it. This guy had 200-plus hits, 100-something RBIs, .330 or something like that, and it wasn’t good enough.
“I wonder sometimes if people think it’s that easy. Hitting is a bitch.’’ He laughed. “Hitting is a bitch.’’