By Ryan Hannable
BOSTON — There were two outs in the sixth inning with a runner on second base and the Red Sox trailing 4-3. The Royals replaced starter James Shields with lefty reliever Scott Downs with lefty Jackie Bradley Jr. coming to the plate.
In what normally might be too early to call upon a pinch-hitter, manager John Farrell called upon the right-handed hitting Jonny Gomes and the veteran outfielder rewarded his manager with a two-run home run to center field, which proved to be the game-winning hit in the Red Sox’ 5-4 win over the Royals.
“For me that’s an opportunity I need to feast on,” Gomes said. “Knowing they have two lefties in the bullpen, so that at-bat effectively started at about 2:00 for me today. That’s the opportunity when my number is called on I need to feast on the opportunity.”
For Gomes, it was his second pinch-hit home run of the season and his sixth overall since joining the Red Sox last season. The six pinch-hit home runs as a member of the Red Sox puts him in second place on the Red Sox all-time list, trailing only Ted Williams who had seven. Gomes made it clear he isn’t chasing any of Teddy Ballgame’s records.
“Go ahead and get it out there – I’m not chasing any of Ted Williams’ records,” he said. “To break it all down I am just extremely fortunate, lucky and grateful to wear the same uniform that guy wore. Individual records don’t matter, I’m here trying to collect championships.”
Being a platoon outfielder, Gomes knows his role and needs to be ready when his name is called upon for pinch-hit situations like Friday night. He knows his playing time is somewhat limited and needs to make the most of it — if he doesn’t, his playing time could be cut down even more. He points to that as being the reason for his ability to hit in the clutch.
Gomes’ clutch hitting has done a lot for the Red Sox in the past year and a half. In games he’s homered as a member of the Red Sox, the team is 16-4 in those games. The biggest came in Game 4 of the World Series last year when he belted a three-run home run in St. Louis to allow the Red Sox to tie the series at two.
“I wouldn’t say I thrive, to tell you the truth, it’s something I have to do,” said Gomes. “If you take that away from my tools and what I bring to the club, you might not be seeing much No. 5. It’s one of my tasks, one of my jobs that I have here and I just have to do my best to succeed in this role.”
Hitting against left-handers is what Gomes does best as after Friday he is hitting .313 against left-handers (31-for-99) this year, compared to just .154 against righties (14-for-91).
For the Red Sox as a team, it was big win as they entered the sixth inning trailing 4-1 and the four runs led them to a win. It was their 18th comeback win of the season and they have now won five of their last six games overall and starting to finally build some momentum. Entering the day 9 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East, Gomes and the team know where they stand, but also know there is still a lot of baseball left to be played and no one should be counted out.
“Before the break and first day after the break our goal hasn’t changed, so our goal is still win the division, win that last game of the year, our goal hasn’t changed one bit,” said Gomes. “Obviously we understand the date and we understand we dig ourselves in the hole a little bit, but we’re not trying to turn the corner by any means, we’re just trying to win as many games as we can.”
What do you think of Jonny Gomes? Should the Red Sox hold on to him, or look to trade him? Voice your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @RyanHannable.