Please understand this: Adrian Gonzalez is not a home run hitter.
All those balls suddenly exploding off his bat like they're launched by NASA? Those record five home runs in the first three games of the season? Heck, the team-high 27 homers he hit last year?
Gonzalez claims none were the goal.
“I’m just trying to hit a ball hard and on line,” he said.
And they just happen to go screaming into the night. His three home runs Wednesday night all looked pretty similar. All came off San Diego’s hard-throwing Andrew Cashner, all off fastballs.
“Yeah, fastballs middle in,” he said.
Note to Cashner and the Padres: You just might want to try something different. Particularly right now, when Gonzalez looks like an F-22 Raptor closing in for the kill.
“He’s as locked in as you could possibly be,” said Dodgers right-hander Brandon McCarthy. “Everything is just squared up and he’s on time. It’s a nightmare for any pitcher to face, even if you’re throwing 99 [mph].”
Hit the ball hard and sometimes powerful things happen, sometimes in great bunches. Do it enough, of course, and people might start to think of you as a home run hitter, despite any protestations.
“I don’t think he’s a guy who goes up there trying to hit homers, he’s just trying to hit the ball hard,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “He has a really good swing. And he can kind of do it to all areas of the field.
“You look at a home run hitter, you look at guys who hit a lot of home runs and strike out a lot and don’t really do anything else. Adrian can really hit. He knows what he’s doing up there. He’s just that guy who understands what he’s doing. A guy a lot of our guys can learn from.”
In addition to his 267 career home runs, Gonzalez is a .293 lifetime hitter. Last season, along with his 27 homers, he hit 41 doubles and led the National League with 116 RBI.
If it would seem natural when a hitter is on a great wave like Gonzalez that he starts to think about hitting homers, take into consideration his final at-bat Wednesday. With runners on the corners, two outs and the Dodgers up by two runs, the Padres brought in left-hander Frank Garces in the sixth to face Gonzalez.
“I definitely was not thinking about hitting another one against the lefty,” he said. “I was just trying to stay on the ball and hit something hard up the middle. I just told myself, don’t try and do too much.”
He lined a single up the middle to give the Dodgers a three-run lead, and himself a four-RBI night.
“There’s so much discipline in his at-bats,” McCarthy said. “He knows exactly where the barrel is on every swing. It’s very hard to fool him. And it starts with when he gets to the ballpark.”
And apparently when he begins to think about hitting, not home runs, but line drives. Even when they are screeching out of the ballpark.