The pink bats, wristbands, cleats and pins made it clear what day it is. Baseball is awash in the color every year on Mother's Day, a symbol of the sport's mission to help raise breast cancer awareness.
Because of the holiday, it was a special day for many in attendance at Fenway Park. For Adrian Gonzalez, it was twice, or maybe three times, as nice. Sunday also marked Gonzalez's 29th birthday, and he was able to mark both occasions with another strong performance at the plate.
The slugging first baseman homered and singled twice to spearhead a 14-hit attack in a 9-5 Red Sox win over the Minnesota Twins. The home run was the third of the current 11-game homestand and his second to clear the Green Monster, indications that he is beginning to fulfill the overwhelming projections that the park was tailor-made for him.
Gonzalez has been asked time and time again about how well he will perform in Fenway Park. He said the recent success is much more a matter of timing; he just happens to be finding his stroke while the schedule is littered with home games.
"It has nothing to do with the park, it has to do with my swing. My swing is getting better, starting to stay behind the ball," he said, adding that he usually begins to showcase his trademark opposite-field power once the weather warms up. "It's one of those things that I usually don't do in April. As the season goes on, a little more."
Whether Gonzalez wants to admit that the park has an effect or not, the fact that he has dropped two homers over that big wall in left has allowed some to think about what kind of production he will have when he begins to spray the ball all over the place.
"He uses the whole field so well. He's going to hit the ball off the wall, if not over it," manager Terry Francona said. "And he can pull it when they start pounding him in. Doesn't matter if he's a left-hander or right-hander, his approach is so good."
Francona added that Gonzalez will lose some doubles because of the Monster, which collects its fair share of wall-ball singles. Ever the thinking man, Gonzalez had a retort.
"I'm going get some doubles, too, because I'm going to hit some lazy fly balls that would normally be outs," he said, describing another quirk of Fenway Park that sees left fielders wait forever for high flies that end up scraping the wall on the way down. "Can get a double out of it because if you hustle out of the box, you can get there. "
Overall, Gonzalez has hit in 21 of his last 23 games, putting together a .348 (32-for-92) mark in that span. On Sunday, he was just one of the masses as every Red Sox starter except Jason Varitek had a hit. Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits, J.D. Drew and Jed Lowrie had two RBIs and Kevin Youkilis matched a career high with four runs scored.
But the birthday boy got much of the postgame credit. Youkilis, who has 11 hits in his last 26 at-bats, was asked who is hotter at the plate, him or Gonzalez. There was zero hesitation.
"Adrian!" Youkilis barked before walking away.
Hard to argue with such a definitive statement, especially with what Gonzalez has produced in recent days.
Not one to make a big deal of himself, Gonzalez deflected talk about his big day being any more special because of when it fell on the calendar.
"It's just another day," he said. "Every day we get older."
And every day Gonzalez takes his hacks at Fenway Park, he seems to like it a little more.
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