Jonny Gomes has started three games for the Red Sox since May 28. The opposing starting pitchers were Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, and Derek Holland.
His next start will probably come against C.J. Wilson of the Angels in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday.
“The job that I’ve been asked to do is tough,” Gomes said.
Gomes knew when he signed with the Red Sox in December that his role would be to start against lefthanders and that many of them would be among the best pitchers in baseball. That’s why he’s not too concerned with a .202 batting average.
“I don’t think I’ve been struggling,” Gomes said on Thursday night after collecting four hits in a 6-3 victory against the Texas Rangers. “I just don’t think I’ve got started yet.”
The Sox and Angels were rained out Friday night and are scheduled for two games on Saturday. Gomes figures to come to the plate in a big spot at some point during the day, whether as a pinch hitter or a starter. Manager John Farrell has a lot of faith in the 32-year-old outfielder.
“He has that track record,” Farrell said.
Gomes is a career .279 hitter against lefthanders with an .886 OPS. He hit .299 against lefties for the Oakland Athletics last season, helping them to the postseason.
“We feel those numbers aren’t there because of a fluke,” Farrell said. “He’s gotten off to a traditional [slow] start for him. Over the past 10-12 days, it’s starting to come to life for him. He does an excellent job and has always done an excellent job against lefties. That’s coming to life a little bit more consistently.”
A look inside the numbers shows some of the value Gomes has given the Red Sox this season. He is hitting .278 with a .928 OPS with runners in scoring position and is 3 for 9 as a pinch hitter with two home runs. His batting average in the ninth inning is .462.
Gomes came to the plate to start the bottom of the ninth Thursday in a 3-3 game and drilled the first pitch he saw from Rangers lefthander Michael Kirkland to the gap in left field for a double.
“You’re expecting a strike,” Gomes said. “Sometimes you want to take a strike. I’ve fouled that pitch off before many a times. It’s certainly not [easy].”
The Rangers then intentionally walked Dustin Pedroia to get to David Ortiz. Texas manager Ron Washington played the percentages, walking a righthanded hitter to get to the lefthander.
Ortiz spoiled that by driving the first pitch he saw into the Rangers bullpen to win the game.
Gomes marveled at the display from Ortiz.
“There’s a bunch of guys in this clubhouse, I’m glad they’re on our team,” he said. “When you’re walking Pedey to get to David, that’s a pretty good 1-2 punch. [Ortiz] has the ability to get the job done. Sometimes you need a homer. It’s hard enough to hit a homer, but to hit a homer almost at will?
“He’s an unbelievable hitter. You’ve seen some struggles on other teams from guys in the DH role. It’s definitely not an easy role. He’s the ambassador of the role. He’s not done yet. We’ve still got him.”
Gomes was the DH for Oakland in 46 games last season. With Ortiz around, those opportunities are limited with the Red Sox and he has started 20 games in the outfield. Advanced metrics show Gomes to be a below-average defender in the outfield over the course of his career. But his play in left field for the Sox has been solid this season.
Gomes has shown a strong arm and the ability to make plays on balls that bounce off the wall. Farrell said the Red Sox are comfortable using Gomes in the outfield.
Gomes disagrees with the notion that he’s not a good outfielder. For him, it’s more a lack of opportunity.
“I don’t think you become a good defender in one offseason,” Gomes said. “I don’t think you become a good defender when you show up one day. I’ve been DHing a lot in my career. I’ve kept that [defensive] tool sharp and taken batting practice serious and getting my work in there. So when my number is called, I’m not rusty.”