Jonny Gomes isn’t the face of the franchise. He is, however, becoming the face of Boston’s late-inning drama.
The Red Sox came from behind yet again Wednesday, defeating the Astros 7-5 after trailing 5-2 with two outs in the seventh inning. And yet again, Gomes was at the heart of Boston’s dramatic rally.
Gomes, who walked and scored the Red Sox’ first run in the second inning, drilled a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh inning to bring Boston to within a run. Then, he worked a seven-pitch walk in the ninth inning to set the table for Stephen Drew’s game-winning three-run homer.
Gomes’ contributions Wednesday again went beyond the batter’s box, though. He was forced to shift from left field to right field — a position he played only three times prior in 2013 — before the bottom of the seventh inning because Shane Victorino got ejected for arguing with third base umpire Brian Knight. Gomes responded by recording three putouts before Drew’s big blast, the first of which involved him making an excellent sliding grab in foul territory to retire Matt Dominguez.
When the Red Sox signed Gomes in the offseason, the prevailing thought was that they had acquired a bopper with a reputation of being a good clubhouse guy. Now, we’re seeing that power and personality aren’t the only two things the veteran brings to the table. Both his defense and baserunning ability have been pleasant surprises this season, especially of late, with Gomes making a number of game-changing defensive plays during the Red Sox’ recent string of comeback success.
Gomes recorded an unassisted double play to stymie a potential Mariners rally in the 15th inning of the Red Sox’ July 31 win. He then threw out Kendrys Morales at third base and crashed into the Green Monster while making a grab in the ninth inning of the following night’s improbable comeback victory. On Saturday, Gomes threw out Cliff Pennington at the plate in the eighth inning to preserve Boston’s lead.
“It’s a huge, a guy that can come in and bring energy to the team and has experience,” Drew said of Gomes after Wednesday’s win. “I played with him [in Oakland] last year, and [he is a] great teammate and fun guy to be around. It’s great to see him coming around, because we know what he can do. Like I said, everybody contributed tonight, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of.”
All of Gomes’ defensive contributions are gravy, as his biggest impact still lies in his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Gomes’ four pinch-hit home runs this season mark the second-highest single-season total in Red Sox history, and Wednesday’s seventh-inning homer, although not a pinch-hit home run, once again brought to light the outfielder’s ability to come through in the clutch. But when Gomes is firing on all cylinders, it makes the Red Sox that much deeper and that much more dangerous.
Gomes’ playing time could continue to fluctuate. He keeps finding a way to make an impact — in more ways than one — in the later innings, though, and it’s rubbing off on the entire team.