Adrian Gonzalez fell a warning track short of producing his second magical moment in as many days with the Dodgers.
With the bases loaded and the Dodgers down by two runs in the eighth inning, Gonzalez hit a towering fly ball that went back, back, back . . . and was caught at the edge of the outfield grass by right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.
“It would have been great, absolutely,” Gonzalez said.
The Dodgers lost to the Miami Marlins on Sunday, 6-2, but Gonzalez looked back at his first two games at Dodger Stadium as a home player with warm feelings. He hit a three-run home run the previous day in his first at-bat with his new team.
“They’ve accepted me very beautifully, with open arms,” he said of the fans. “I appreciate that.”
The bilingual Gonzalez, who is of Mexican descent, split his childhood between Tijuana and San Diego. He was a fan of his hometown Padres but always admired Fernando Valenzuela.
He knows many of the Dodgers’ fans identify with his background the way they did with Valenzuela’s. Many fans rhythmically clapped along to the Mexican ranchera song he is using as his walk-up music.
“Hopefully, I can come close to doing what Fernando did here,” he said. “But everything good comes from doing your work on the field.”
Valenzuela’s job was to win games. Gonzalez’s is to drive in runs.
Gonzalez has driven in four of them in two games with the Dodgers, raising his season total to 90.
Gonzalez played five seasons for the Padres, with whom he developed a reputation as a consummate professional, a soft-spoken but hard-working and dignified clubhouse leader. Ex-teammate Heath Bell recently compared him to New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter.
That reputation took a hit over the last two seasons with the Boston Red Sox, to whom he was traded before the 2011 season. He became one of the symbols of the team’s failures, and questions were raised about the kind of influence he was on the clubhouse.
Gonzalez has repeatedly expressed how delighted he is to be playing in Los Angeles but said it had nothing to do with his leaving the baseball-mad city of Boston.
“I never thought about wanting to leave Boston,” he said.
When he heard he might be traded to the Dodgers, Gonzalez said his first thoughts were: “Close to San Diego, close to family, Mexican food.”
As for why the Boston media didn’t take to him, he said, “They didn’t like that I was a calm person. I won’t throw my helmet, I won’t scream, I won’t use bad words if I strike out. That’s what they want over there.”
Gonzalez wasn’t bothered by the sudden and dramatic change in his public image.
“You can’t control what others say,” he said. “I was the same person in San Diego. They took me over there and I didn’t change. My intensity, how I prepared, everything was the same. When they took me over there, they took me over there to drive in runs. And I did that.”
He drove in 117 runs last season, third in the American League and fifth in the majors.
But there were whispers that Gonzalez had lost power. He hit 27 home runs last season after averaging 34 the previous four years, including 40 in 2009 and 31 in 2010.
“What took my power away was the Green Monster,” he said of the 37-foot wall at Boston’s Fenway Park.
“I used to hit line drives that way and they would be doubles,” he said. “That took away five home runs from me last year. So I would have had 32.”
Gonzalez had 15 home runs at the time of the trade. He thinks he would have had more than 20 if not for the fabled wall.
“My power hasn’t left me,” he said. “In San Diego, a lot of my home runs used to be to left field.”
But that doesn’t matter.
“What’s most important is to drive in runs, not hit home runs,” he said. “A home run is a run.”