Can just one hit — all right, one really big hit — get All-Star left fielder Alex Gordon unlocked as the Royals try to build on the momentum of a six-game winning streak?
“I don’t know,” Gordon said after his two-run homer in the 12th inning Sunday provided a 4-2 victory at Chicago. “Who cares? We won the game. One hit is fine with me as long as we win the game.”
That is Gordon, 29, in his role as the Gary Cooper-style leader (rent some videos, kids) in the Royals’ clubhouse. If this strong, quiet persona is an act, it’s a good one.
“His confidence never drops,” said outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who was on third when Gordon launched his game-winner. “Even if he is going through a rough patch, he’s a tough cookie to pitch to.”
It is a rough patch.
Gordon was batting .340 through May 29. Since then, he is scuffling at .185 with a mere nine extra-base hits in 48 games. He led the majors last year with 51 doubles but is currently at 59 at-bats and counting since his last one.
Ask him if he has an explanation for his two-month slide, and Gordon offers a wry smile and a typically quiet answer.
“Obviously, if I knew what to do, I’d be doing it,” he said. “I’m just not seeing the ball well right now for some reason. I’m not getting results.
“I’m trying to stay positive and battle through it. I’ve been through slumps before, and I’ve gotten out of them. This is no different. I’m just going to keep working hard and try to get out of it.”
The Royals, not surprisingly, will simply wait for him to break loose.
“Alex Gordon?” manager Ned Yost barked prior to Sunday’s game,. “Nothing is wrong with Alex Gordon. He’s just not getting any hits. Even the best players, they struggle.
“They (the Cardinals) just put (Carlos) Beltran on the bench for a day or two. I was thinking about giving (Gordon) a break (Sunday), but with (Lorenzo) Cain (nursing a tight left groin), I can’t do it.”
And then Gordon, after going hitless in five at-bats with two strikeouts, hits the game-winning homer. The Royals, 51-51, are rolling as they open a three-game series Tuesday night at Minnesota.
To him, that’s all that counts.
“When we’re winning,” Gordon said, “nothing else really matters. If you want a good team, that’s all everybody should worry about. Obviously, everybody wants to go out there and play well.
“But if we’re winning ballgames, I’m not going to be that upset about it. I am doing a little more extra work in the cage with Pedro (Grifol, the hitting coach). More early BP and stuff like that. Just trying to feel comfortable.”
In the past, when Gordon was slumping, he tried to work his way out of it by using the formula preached by former hitting coach Kevin Seitzer — concentrate on hitting the ball from the middle-to-the-opposite field.
“I’m trying to do that,” Gordon said, “because, right now, I’m not hitting balls that way. I just need to start getting through the ball better. Just getting ready on time and not think too much about my swing.
“I’m just trying to simplify things.”
That brings up another point: Gordon categorically rejects the suggestion that his slump is connected to Seitzer’s absence or, for the matter, the arrival and departure of George Brett as interim coach. Or Grifol. Or anyone else.
“People are going to say what they want to say,” Gordon said. “But you can’t really blame anybody except for yourself. This is your career, and you need to take responsibility for it.
“You can’t say that because Seitzer is not here, that’s the reason I’m not swinging well. Seitzer wasn’t here at the beginning of the year, and I was swinging it fine. Nobody said anything then.”
Again, Gordon insists, none of this matters. The Royals are winning — 8-2 since the All-Star break and increasingly optimistic that they can climb back into the postseason hunt.
“Since I’ve been here,” he said, “I don’t think we’ve been .500 this late in the year. It’s been a lot of fun. We have a lot of guys who are playing well.”
The Royals could use one more.