Baseball / Sports

Atlanta Braves pitcher Julio Teheran reacts after giving up three runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, at Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Gonzalez extends RBI streak as Dodgers top Braves, 6-2

ATLANTA -- Adrian Gonzalez can't describe exactly what he's feeling right now. He can't explain why this feeling appears and vanishes without notice.

Whatever it is, he thinks it could be the start of something.

Gonzalez has driven in runs in each of the Los Angeles Dodgers' last five games, the most recent a series-opening, 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

"I'm a very streaky hitter, so hopefully I can continue to keep doing that," he said.

Gonzalez singled in the Dodgers' first run in a three-run sixth inning Monday that reversed a 1-0 deficit. The run batted in was the 80th of the season for Gonzalez. In the National League, only Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins has more.

Against the Braves, Gonzalez had two hits and drove another ball to the warning track. He is batting .579 over his last five games and .357 in 23 games since the All-Star break. For the season, he is hitting .271.

"He's just been in sync," said manager Don Mattingly. "It's been a little bit now. It doesn't seem there's a run out there he didn't drive in."

Gonzalez can't say why his bat has suddenly awakened.

"I wish it was something you could just kind of go to, you know? It's not. It's the human element of the feeling of being in the zone that no one can explain."

He was in a zone through April, when he was batting .317 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs.

His average plunged the next month. He batted .231 in May and .222 in June.

Looking back, Gonzalez doesn't think he was in a slump for two months.

"I feel like I had one bad stretch," he said. "After April, I had a lot of balls that I hit really hard at people. May was actually not a bad month hitting the ball. But in June, I got myself into that funk because I was getting frustrated."

Whatever the case, he managed to continue driving in runs, something Mattingly attributed to his pragmatic approach at the plate with runners in scoring position.

"He's taking his money when there are guys on third base," Mattingly said. "He's not getting greedy. He's taking that sac fly, kind of early in the count when they leave a ball out over the plate. That's really what RBI guys do. You leave it for them, they take it and that's what Adrian's been doing."

With Hanley Ramirez constantly battling injuries and Yasiel Puig still in the developmental phase of his career, Gonzalez thinks it's important for him to be a regular run producer.

"I try to be a guy who can play every day," he said.

Doing so is becoming a greater challenge as Gonzalez grows older. Gonzalez is 32 and his knees are constant sources of trouble for him.

"You don't necessarily talk about it because you don't want anybody to look at it as an excuse," he said. "I don't need anybody to feel bad for me.

"I'll deal with it the rest of my career. It's not something that really bothers me. I'm still going to be out there every day. I'm still going to play hard every day."

A four-time All-Star, Gonzalez is on pace to drive in 100 or more runs for the sixth time in his career.

"For me, the biggest key is don't focus on stats," he said. "Just focus on helping the team win."

Gonzalez said there was a time in his career when he also had other objectives -- establishing himself as a major leaguer or becoming an All-Star, for example.

Not any more.

"I don't care about any of that stuff," he said. "I just want to win a World Series. You get to where I'm at, I really don't care about anything other than winning."

With their victory Monday night, the Dodgers extended their lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West to a season-high five games.


ON THE MOUND: Acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Twins two days earlier, Kevin Correia pitched a gem of a game in a spot start for the Dodgers. Correia earned a victory by limiting the Braves to a run and four hits over six innings. A frequent victim of meager run support with the Twins, Correia said he was emboldened knowing that he was backed by a potent Dodgers lineup. "It's definitely a confidence builder," Correia said. "It's one of the best lineups I've pitched in front of." The Dodgers scored three times in the sixth inning to overcome a 1-0 deficit. "I knew these guys could score runs and I knew they were coming," Correia said. As well as Correia pitched, manager Don Mattingly doesn't plan to start him any time soon. Mattingly said Correia will be used as a long reliever, similar to how Paul Maholm was used before he went down with a season-ending knee injury.

AT THE PLATE: Carl Crawford was three for four with two runs batted in and a run scored. This was the kind of performance Mattingly envisioned when he explained why Crawford, and not Andre Ethier, was the Dodgers' first-choice left fielder. Crawford started 13 of the Dodgers' last 17 games but batted only .196 over that stretch. Ethier started only three times in that period, including once in center field. "Carl, before he got hurt, was probably swinging the bat better than anyone we had," Mattingly said. "I feel like Carl's going to get back to that." When Crawford was placed on the disabled list on May 28 because of a sprained left ankle, he was batting .267 with four home runs, 18 runs batted in and nine steals in 44 games. "If you really look at our numbers, he had as high a percentage of balls hit on the nose as anyone we've got," Mattingly said. The manager added that he likes how Crawford brings speed and versatility to the lineup. That has made the left-handed-hitting Crawford the Dodgers' first-choice left fielder on days they face a right-handed pitcher. Right-handed-hitting Scott Van Slyke draws the majority of starts at the position when the Dodgers face a left-handed pitcher.

EXTRA BASES: To create a place for Correia on the active roster, the Dodgers optioned right-hander Pedro Baez to triple-A Albuquerque. Yasiel Puig was back in the lineup after taking a day off to rest a sore back. Puig was two for four with a walk and two runs scored. Juan Uribe was given a day off and replaced by Justin Turner at third base.

UP NEXT: Dan Haren (9-9, 4.57) will face Mike Minor (4-7, 5.42) and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT.

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