BOSTON — The Red Sox have dug themselves a hole several times this season. Jonny Gomes wasn’t prepared to go down that path again Saturday versus the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park.
Gomes launched a grand slam into the Monster seats in the first inning of Boston’s 6-3 win. The blast supplemented an incredible pitching performance by Red Sox starter Jon Lester and set the tempo for a productive day offensively.
“Jonny gives us a huge lift in the first (inning) on (the first pitch he saw),” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I think we’ve shown that when we score first and you get a start like that from Lester today, it puts you in command. Not that you ever take anything for granted — evident by (Oakland’s three-run) ninth inning — but I think as the warm weather starts to descend here, guys are feeling a little bit more free and easy at the plate.”
Gomes’ grand slam was one of three home runs for the Red Sox, as David Ortiz and David Ross went deep in the third and fourth innings, respectively. It also marked the second grand slam in as many days for Boston and the club’s third grand slam in seven games.
“Not really. I guess that’d be icing on the cake,” Gomes said when asked if he was thinking home run upon digging in with the bags packed in the first inning. “But like I said, (with the) bases loaded (and) one out, I was really trying to elevate the ball more than anything because a double play right there kills us.”
A long ball into the seats certainly is one way to avoid a double play. It’s also an excellent way to make life easier for the starting pitcher, and Lester responded by twirling eight shutout innings in which he struck out a career-high 15.
“It’s always nice to pitch with a lead. You can breathe a little easier, especially when (Lester’s) pitching like that — a lead always helps,” Lester’s battery mate, Ross, said after the win. “The first month, we were playing a lot of catch-up and put a lot pressure on ourselves, and then Jonny gave us some breathing room today, and that was really nice to be able to pitch and be aggressive with the lead.”
A.J. Pierzynski jump-started Boston’s ongoing grand slam barrage last Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, and Dustin Pedroia continued it with a bases-loaded round-tripper in Friday’s 7-1 victory over the Athletics. Gomes’ shot came early, leaving the A’s plenty of time to answer, but it sent Boston down a winning path.
“We’ve seen where we pitch, and we don’t hit, (or) we hit and we don’t pitch,” Gomes said of the Red Sox, who are back to one game below the elusive .500 mark. “That’s why a long time ago, they picked a 162-game season, because that’s how many it takes to even out.”
It’s all evening out for Boston in grand fashion.