New approach helping Gonzo rake off lefties

New approach helping Gonzo rake off lefties

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres face three consecutive left-handed starting pitchers beginning Tuesday against the Blue Jays, which should be very good news for left-handed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Gonzalez has been much-improved against southpaws this season, posting a .321 average with an on-base percentage of .424 and a slugging percentage of .464 in 84 at-bats. That's a dramatic increase from his .234/.339/.431 mark in 2009 and .213/.287/.387 clip in 2008.

Gonzalez said he has changed his approach against left-handed pitching this season, focusing more on driving the ball to the opposite field like he did in 2006 (when he hit .312 against lefties) than trying to pull it into the stands.

"I had success in '06, and then I went to a more just power mentality in '07, '08, '09," Gonzalez said. "Then this year, I just told myself I'm fine with getting all singles against them. I'm just trying to let the ball go the other way."

Padres manager Bud Black pointed to Gonzalez's game against Seattle's Cliff Lee on May 21, where he had four hits to left field, as a perfect example of Gonzalez's adjustments at the plate.

"The opposite-field hit became very prominent," Black said. "As we moved through the schedule from there, it just kept coming. He started hitting the home run and the average started climbing. He's seeing the ball well, taking what pitchers are giving him and driving the ball with authority the other way."

Gonzalez has 27 hits, 13 RBIs and three home runs against left-handed pitching this season, the biggest blast a walk-off grand slam to the opposite field in the 11th inning of the Padres' 5-1 victory over the Mets on June 2 against lefty Raul Valdes.

But Gonzalez has been finding success against just about everyone of late, as he has hit safely in 12 of his past 15 games while posting a .397 average with six home runs, four doubles, 16 RBIs and 12 runs scored during that span. He is now tied for second in the National League with 15 home runs.