BOSTON — The celebration changes, but the result stays the same.
Jonny Gomes lifted a pinch-hit, walk-off home run into the first row of Monster seats in the ninth inning Wednesday to give the Red Sox a 2-1 victory over the Padres. The Red Sox are now a season-high 18 games over .500, and they continue to demonstrate a flair for the dramatic.
The Red Sox have eight walk-off wins this season, with three coming via the long ball. Boston’s last walk-off home run came just two weeks ago, when Gomes took Joel Peralta deep in the second game of a day-night doubleheader.
Following Gomes’ home run off Peralta on June 18, he kicked his helmet into the air after rounding third base – a celebration he dubbed “The Fenway Punt.” This time around, Gomes called an audible. He faked “The Fenway Punt,” and instead plunged right up the gut.
“The fake punt. You’ve got to keep everyone on their toes, right?” Gomes said after Wednesday’s win. “I think I’m all out of tricks now, to tell you the truth.”
It’s easy to run out of tricks when dramatic victories start becoming the norm, and that’s exactly the case with this year’s Red Sox. Boston is tied with San Francisco for the most walk-off wins in the majors, and 26.7 percent of the Red Sox’ home wins (8 of 30) have been of the walk-off variety.
There’s been no shortage of drama, and Gomes continues to find himself in the middle of it all despite inconsistent playing time. He has three pinch-hit home runs in 2013, which is the most in a season by a Red Sox player since Bernie Carbo smacked three pinch-hit blasts in 1977. Only Del Wilber (four in 1953) and Joe Cronin (five in 1943) have had more in a single campaign.
On Wednesday, Gomes, who pinch-hit for Brandon Snyder, took advantage of a 2-2 slider left out over the plate by Padres reliever Luke Gregerson. Gomes had already missed with two giant cuts on sliders in the at-bat, but he got his timing back after laying off a 2-1 pitch, and he tattooed the next offering just over the wall in left field.
“I think his career shows that midseason on is when he starts to really have things click for him and that’s been the case,” manager John Farrell said of Gomes. “When we went on the interleague trip through Philadelphia, we really started to see better swings from him, more consistent and he’s carried it through. He stays prepared. That’s the one thing. In the role he’s in, he’s got a lot of experience in it and I guess a flair for the dramatic.”
Gomes has obviously come up with some huge at-bats, but the veteran slugger was quick to point out the other factors that go into a dramatic win like Wednesday’s.
“Whether it’s me or someone else, I’ll tell you what, winning’s fun. Stuff like that is contagious,” Gomes said. “It seems like it’s someone new nightly and Jon [Lester] and Taz (Junichi Tazawa) didn’t get an at-bat tonight but they did a heck of a job just giving us the opportunity.”
Lester went seven strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Tazawa pitched the eighth inning, and Koji Uehara, who tossed a scoreless ninth, received the win. It was a well-pitched game all-around, and with the way this season has gone for Boston, it just seemed like another dramatic win was inevitable.
“It’s been great. I think that’s the good part about our team. Every night somebody else steps up and picks up our team up in different situations and Jonny did it again tonight,” Lester said. “That’s a big win for us to battle through that whole game just 1-1 and able to come out on top.”
The Red Sox are now 18 games over .500 for the first time since the conclusion of the 2011 season. It’s time for Gomes and Co. to hit the drawing board, though. We’re just past the halfway point, and the Red Sox can’t afford to let their walk-off celebrations go stale.