For a manager who treats information as if it were currency, John Farrell did not have much of it to work with.
The Red Sox were in the ninth inning of a tight and tense battle with the San Diego Padres.
Both teams had been issued warnings.
Players from both sides took long stares at plate umpire Doug Eddings after seeing his strike zone.
Through 24 outs, they had manage to cobble together a run each.
With Padres setup man Luke Gregerson on the mound, there weren’t a lot of numbers for Farrell to crunch, but he went with what he had.
Only four Sox had faced Gregerson.
One of them, Stephen Drew, was out with a hamstring injury.
Two of them, Shane Victorino and Mike Carp, were already in the lineup, and they were too far back in the order to face him for certain in the ninth.
The hitter due up, Brandon Snyder, had never seen Gregerson or his devastating slider.
The only player left on the bench who had seen it firsthand was Jonny Gomes, who had faced Gregerson twice.
The last time was a year ago, when Gomes was with the Oakland Athletics.
It was a 4-4 game when Gomes came up in the seventh and smacked a two-run homer to deep left field that would end up deciding that game for the Athletics.
Farrell figured history, limited as it was, was on his side.
“I felt like this was an opportunity to pick a spot to use Gomes,” Farrell said.
The slider would be Gregerson’s weapon of choice. He went to it on nine of his first 11 pitches when he came on in the eighth inning with two on and none out and sat down Daniel Nava (strikeout swinging), Mike Carp (fly out) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (strikeout swinging) in order.
He wasn’t changing the blueprint against Gomes.
“He throws a good slider,” Gomes said. “No one’s hitting it the whole game.”
After letting the first one go by, Gomes couldn’t get his bat on it on two cuts at it.
Down 1 and 2, he took another slider for a ball.
“I let that one go by and it kind of locked me into my sights,” he said.
He was hoping a slider would hang up in the zone.
With Jose Iglesias on deck and the top of the order due next, Gomes had hitters behind him. He knew just getting on base would be enough of a victory.
But he also knew himself.
“You might be able to argue I always go for the fences,” he said.
The next slider he saw was the one he set his sight on, up in the zone, and he sent it screaming into left field.
“I knew I hit it far enough, but that green wall can be tricky sometimes,” Gomes said. “So I just hoped I had enough air under it to get out.”
When it cleared, Gomes had his sixth home run of the season as well as his sixth pinch hit homer of his career, and his second walkoff homer of the season, and it gave the Red Sox their eighth walkoff win of the season, a 2-1 victory over the Padres.
“I was just lucky enough to catch one up,” Gomes said.
Farrell, who’s played hunches successfully all season, cashed in on another.
“A flair for the dramatic, whatever you want to call it, he got a slider on the middle of the plate and walked it off,” Farrell said.
The homer capped a game that was played on pins and needles after one strange sequence in the first inning.
Chase Headley was up with two outs and one on. Pitching from the stretch, Jon Lester brought his glove to his face to, readying himself for his 0-and-1 pitch.
Headley tapped his front foot and rocked his bat, waiting on it. At the last moment, though, he called time, but it was too late. By the time Eddings signaled play was dead, Lester was already into his delivery.
The pitch pegged Headley in the left foot. He collapsed face forward into the dirt.
No warning was issued.
“I know it looks bad,” Lester said. “A guy calls time and I hit him in the foot. I’m obviously not trying to. Yanked a cutter and was halfway through my delivery when he called time.”
Headley stepped back in and after a 10-pitch battle, stroked a line drive to left field that kept the inning alive.
It was the first of three two-out hits given up by Lester, and one pitch later he paid for it when Kyle Banks singled to center to score Carlos Quentin, who had singled.
Two innings later, Jose Iglesias stepped in to lead off the third and was immediately dotted with a 93-mile-per-hour fastball by Padres pitcher Edinson Volquez.
Eddings didn’t hesitate, hopping out of his crouch to warn warning Volquez as he tossed him a new ball. Volquez threw his arms up, puzzled.
He then gave up a single to Jacoby Ellsbury, who extended his hit streak to 13 games. Volquez nearly tested his limits two batters later. A breaking ball got away from him and ran in at the waistline of Shane Victorino, but ultimately he got Victorino to bounce one back to the mound. He then caught Dustin Pedroia staring at a 2-and-2 pitch.
When Lester came out, Eddings cautioned him.
“I get what Doug’s doing there as far as the warning, just trying to nip it in the bud there,” Lester said. “But I guess that’s a part of baseball.
From that point on, neither pitcher budged.
Lester threw seven solid innings for the second consecutive start. After being tagged for 38 runs in his past eight starts, Lester gave up just one on six hits, striking out five.
Volquez went six innings. He gave up seven hits, but fanned six, keeping the Sox in check before handing the ball over to Nick Vincent in the seventh.
The only run Volquez allowed was on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia double off the Monster in the fourth inning, and that was a result of some heads-up base running by Mike Carp, who saw Quentin struggle fielding the ball and scored from first.
“I saw off the bat it had a pretty good chance of hanging up and I saw he wasn’t going to get it, took off, kept going, got a good read, it was nice,” Carp said.
The Sox earned their seventh win in eight games thanks to small but crucial decisions and unlikely but timely contributions.
“Whether it’s me or someone else, I’ll tell you, winning’s fun and stuff like that is contagious,” Gomes said. “It seems like it’s someone new nightly.”