With six outfielders on the disabled list and Kevin Youkilis on the mend, Gonzalez altruistically volunteered to temporarily slide to right field. That way, Boston could employ both Youkilis — at first base — and Will Middlebrooks in the lineup.
That vision came to fruition in Wednesday's 6-4 win over the Tigers. As a result of Gonzalez's sacrifice, Youkilis and Middlebrooks were both able to ignite Boston's offense, combining for four hits, three RBIs and two homers.
"[Gonzalez] was the first to say it," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He said 'There we go. We got four bats in the lineup instead of three, and we just got four runs.' I was the first to say, 'It’s because of your unselfishness of going to the outfield.' I guess that's what it’s all about right now."
But the sacrifice also comes at a price. While moving from first base to right field enables the Red Sox to rely on more sluggers, the trade-off is that Gonzalez remains prone to miscues when playing out of position.
Take the seventh inning, for example. When Detroit's Miguel Cabrera sent a blooper down the right field line, Gonzalez raced into position and made an accurate slide but ultimately couldn't trap the ball in his glove.
"I caught it at first, but then my elbow hit the ground and it popped out," Gonzalez said. "It's one of those that I don't practice too often. It's just one of those things that you wish you would've made the play and to come up with that play. It would've been huge for the momentum, huge for keeping us ahead. I wasn't able to, but I'll give it my best shot next time."
It was a difficult sequence for any outfielder. A defensive specialist like Ryan Sweeney may have snagged it. But since Sweeney was lounging on the bench, the Tigers managed to pounce on Gonzalez' miscue and tie the score at 4-4.
Those are the risks that come with the territory. Despite the blemish, Middlebrooks and Youkilis managed to torch Detroit's pitching staff, most emphatically with Youkilis' solo shot in the eighth inning.
"You have to play the position somewhat good — if I was out there botching balls, I wouldn't be out there," Gonzalez said. "It's good that Will is swinging the bat great, Youk is swinging the bat great — two guys who need to be in the lineup."
The All-Star's altruistic attitude wasn't lost on Middlebrooks, who belted his sixth home run of the season in the fourth inning.
"It's a team sport and as individual as it can be. When you play together, you win," Middlebrooks said.
It's a tricky trade-off for the Red Sox. Even so, Wednesday's victory epitomized the vision behind Gonzalez' sacrifice.