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Adrian Gonzalez reaches 100 RBI, again

Stephen Dunn

LOS ANGELES -- Adrian Gonzalez extended his red-hot stretch run on Sunday afternoon, and with a pair of three-run home runs reached 100 runs batted in for the fifth straight season. He's now second in the National League with those 100 RBI, four off of Giancarlo Stanton's lead.

Gonzalez is the first Dodgers player with 100 RBI in back-to-back seasons since Shawn Green in 2001-2002.

"It's good," Gonzalez said of reaching the century mark again. "I don't really set goals before the season starts. I try to help our team win every day, and I feel like if I do that at the end of the year the numbers are going to be there."

But it's nothing new for the every day first baseman. He has driven in at least 100 runs seven times in the last eight years, with the Padres, the Red Sox and now the Dodgers.

The one year during that span that Gonzalez didn't make it to 100 RBI was in 2009, when he knocked in 99.

"He's a pretty clutch hitter who knows how to drive in runs, and you need those kind of guys on your team. He grinds it out, he always has good at-bats," said Matt Kemp, who also homered on Sunday. "He doesn't waste any at-bats with runners on base."

Gonzalez in his career has hit .308/.393/.518 with runners on base, compared to .279/.338/.482 with the bases empty, an OPS increase of roughly 11 percent. Major league batters as a whole in 2014 have a .726 OPS with men on base compared to .685 with nobody on, roughly a six percent increase.

On the season, Gonzalez is hitting .279/.338/.474, a 127 OPS+. He has been especially hot in the last month; since Aug. 7 (yes, a conveniently cherry-picked date), Gonzalez is hitting .380/.417/.647 with seven home runs and 28 RBI in 28 games.

"He's had some hot streaks and cold streaks but we've really needed him this last month and he's been pretty big," said Zack Greinke, thankful on Sunday for the run support. "I don't know for sure but it's definitely a possibility he's our most important hitter in the lineup. He's done a good job all year, but especially so in the first month or so and in this last month."

Gonzalez also said the way he is swinging the bat now compares to April, when he hit .317/.377/.644 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in 27 games.

In between the two hot streaks, from May 1 through Aug. 6 he hit just .237/.300/.364 with seven home runs in 85 games. But even when his production was down, Gonzalez found a way to drive in 48 runs during that span.

Part of this is a function of opportunity. Gonzalez has hit third or fourth in 126 of his 134 starts and hit fifth the other eight times. No batter in baseball has more plate appearances this season with runners in scoring position than the 197 by Gonzalez.

But Gonzalez still deserves credit for being the rock of the lineup, consistently in the lineup, and when he's not hitting still finding ways to bring runners home (he's first in the National League with 11 sacrifice flies, for instance).

"For me it's about working hard and just keep grinding," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez leads the team with 140 (of 143) games played and also leads with 134 starts. He averaged 159 games played and 155 starts in the last eight years, along with 38 doubles, 28 home runs and 103 RBI, pretty much in range with what he'll end up with this season.

"You have to take care of your body, you gotta maintain. You have to know when to slow down and when to kick it up a notch. You just have to listen to your body," said Gonzalez, who then joked, "You just have to take the right pills at the right time."