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Gonzo not showing concern over hitting slump in postseason


PHOENIX (AP) _ Luis Gonzalez carried the Arizona Diamondbacks for most of the year. In the postseason, his teammates have done most of the heavy lifting.

In 10 postseason games, Gonzalez is hitting .237 with two homers and five RBIs. If he's upset about his performance, no one can tell.

``If it's bothering me, I'm not going to show it because I know there are 24 other guys that are counting on me,'' he said before Thursday's workout at Bank One Ballpark. ``I'm never going to show frustration because I feel my teammates look at me and a couple of other guys as leaders in here.''

He refuses to let anything dampen his first World Series appearance.

``This is fun,'' he said. ``I really haven't felt like I've swung my bat bad. We're winning and that's all that matters. That's how our whole team is taking it.''

The man teammates and Diamondbacks fans know simply as ``Gonzo'' has become the most popular sports figure in the Valley of the Sun. His community work, combined with his affable, accessible personality have made him universally liked by teammates, opponents, reporters and fans.

That personality hasn't changed in the postseason, despite his struggles at the plate. He's just pleased other people have taken up the slack. Craig Counsell, who usually hits in the No. 2 spot ahead of Gonzalez, batted .381 in the NL championship series. Steve Finley is hitting .357 in the postseason.

``The guy in front of me hit .400 in the last series,'' Gonzalez said, ``so if I'm not getting my hits, at least somebody else is, and we're scoring runs and getting W's.''

The Diamondbacks aren't scoring many runs, though. Fortunately, they don't have to score a lot with Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson on the mound.

Against the New York Yankees, Arizona certainly could use more production from Gonzalez, who batted .325 in the regular season with 142 RBIs and an astonishing 57 home runs.

Manager Bob Brenly credits St. Louis and Atlanta pitchers for the way they handled Gonzalez.

``They've made their pitches on Gonzo more often than not,'' Brenly said. ``I don't really sense him pressing at all. I don't sense him doing anything differently than he's done all year long. It's just that consistently they have made better pitches on him than they did during the regular season.''

Keeping Gonzalez from doing damage is a major part of any opponent's game plan.

``That's a big factor in it,'' Brenly said. ``When you look up and down our stat sheet, that 57 homers jumps off the page at you. Certainly he's a guy that they're going to have to be very careful with.''

Gonzalez is a classic late bloomer. After an unspectacular career with stops in Chicago, Houston and Detroit, he emerged in his early 30s as one the game's best hitters. He doesn't believe he has succumbed to the pressure that comes with his newfound status.

``I've done all right, as long as we're winning,'' he said. ``That's what's so much fun about our team. If I hit .050 and we end up winning it, that's fine. It doesn't matter who the hero on our team is. As long as somebody grabs the keys to the bus and drives it, that's all that matters.''

Because he played for Detroit, Gonzalez is one of the handful of Diamondbacks who knows what it's like to play in Yankee Stadium, although it wasn't in a World Series. Taking his position in left field will be an exercise in tolerance and concentration.

``When you walk into Yankee Stadium, the fans are right on top of you,'' he said. ``There's no foul territory there. They sit right on top of you and they let you know that you're their house. They let your know right when you walk in that `This is our ballpark and you're not welcome here.'''

The Diamondbacks are a tough team to hate, Gonzalez said, but he expects the Yankee fans to manage somehow.

``We don't have any bad apples on our team. We've got a bunch of great guys,'' he said. ``When you run out there and they're yelling at you, that means they hate you because they respect you in some way or another. If they're not yelling at you, you're not doing something right.''
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