Hitting .230 on the season as of July 4 might be considered a bad season for some major leaguers, but not Jonny Gomes. His approach is different than most big league players as he would rather perform well in the clutch, than hit well overall and fail when it matters most.
“Having some success doing that really separates baseball players,” Gomes said. “You could hit .330, but hit .130 with runners in scoring position. What’s more valuable? The name of the game is touching the dish, it doesn’t matter if you do it, or make someone else do it. That is how you win ballgames.”
That is exactly how the Red Sox won Wednesday night as Gomes delivered a clutch, pinch-hit, walk-off home run in the Sox’ 2-1 win over the Padres. For Gomes it was his second walk-off home run in a month.
The veteran outfielder took his clutch hitting to another level in the 2010 season when he was with the Reds, in large part to his manager Dusty Baker.
“It’s definitely something I’ve strided to do,” Gomes said. “It is something I’ve found a knack for and something Dusty Baker really helped me out with in 2010. It was the only real opportunity I had to play everyday and Dusty challenged me and really gave me some tips and keys to approach those at-bats. “
Gomes hit .338 with runners in scoring position in 2010 and really took it to another level last season with the Athletics where he hit .311, but led all of major league baseball hitting a blistering .480 with runners in scoring position and two outs. Overall, the 32-year-old hit .266 in 2010 and .262 in 2012, which goes along with his theory of hitting when it matters most is the more important thing.
He certainly has hit in the clutch in his first season with the Red Sox as he now has three pinch-hit home runs, two in walk-off fashion. He also had a game-winning pinch-hit RBI single in last Friday’s win over Toronto. For the season he is hitting .333 with runners in scoring position and .385 as a pinch-hitter.
The left fielder has picked up his game of late as he has recorded hits in each of his last five games, and six of his last seven. He is hitting .333 (9-for-27) in those seven games with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs.
He has been sharing playing time with Daniel Nava in left field, but more consistent at-bats and playing time may be the key to keeping him on a roll.
“I think it’s consistent playing time in terms of back-to-back starts,” said Gomes. “Maybe a pinch hit, then starting the next day. If you’re to look at it, I think the only thing that has changed is the more consistent at-bats which helps timing.”
His play of late certainly has gotten the attention of his manager, who has noticed a steady improvement, which he says goes along with the type of player Gomes is.
“His career shows mid-season on his when he starts to have things click for him and that has been the case,” manager John Farrell said. “I think when we went on the interleague trip through Philadelphia, we really started to see better swings from him and more consistent and he has carried it through. He stays prepared and in the role that he is in he has a lot of experience in it and has a flair for the dramatic.”
Although Gomes isn’t an everyday player, and likely won’t be baring any injuries, he is still doing a number of little things to help the team win, including being of the leaders of a tight-knit, well-liked clubhouse.
“I don’t think anyone is going to complain about being in first place,” Gomes said. “My role is to be ready when my number is called upon, and if I am not in on a given day to see if I can do something to make someone else better, or give someone else a scouting report I may have.”
With all the dramatic and timely hits Gomes has had thus far this season and it only being the first week of July, one would think with his previous success he has a few more coming. Just don’t expect anymore punting of helmets, or faking-punting following walk-off wins.
"You have to keep everyone on their toes, but I think I am all out of tricks now to tell you the truth,” he said.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84.