Jonny Gomes spent enough time in Oakland to know there was no use in being picky at the plate.
He was going to see strikes. Lots of them.
That’s what A’s pitching coach Curt Young and manager Bob Melvin preached the season Gomes spent in Oakland.
“The A’s mentality is just pound the strike zone,” Gomes said. “I know that really helps them out in their ballpark.”
So he gave himself the green light to swing away. It didn’t matter what A’s starter Tommy Milone fired at him.
In four at-bats Saturday, Gomes saw eight pitches. He swung at every single one of them — one swinging miss, three foul balls, four balls in play.
His first cut did the most damage.
With the bases loaded in the first inning, Gomes blasted the first pitch he saw into the Monster seats. The grand slam — the fifth of Gomes’s career and his second since joining the Red Sox — jump-started the Red Sox offense in their 6-3 win over the A’s.
“I don’t know what he was looking for,” said catcher David Ross. “But he knocked the heck out of an 0-0 curveball.”
When Gomes went to the plate with one out in the first inning, the goal, he said, was simply to put the ball in the air and not spoil a scoring opportunity.
“Just trying to elevate the ball more than anything,” Gomes said. “Double play right there kills us. Was able to elevate it just enough.”
He ended up igniting the Red Sox. Coming in, the Sox had been outscored, 15-5, in the first inning. But with a four-run cushion, Sox starter Jon Lester was able to get comfortable. Lester quickly fell into a groove, ringing up a career-high 15 strikeouts in eight innings.
“To pitch with a lead,” Ross said, “you can pitch a little easier, especially when he’s pitching like that. A lead always helps.
“Early on — or first month — we were playing a lot of catch-up and put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Jonny gave us some breathing room today and that was really nice to be able to pitch and be aggressive with the lead.”
Two innings after Gomes’s blast, David Ortiz launched a 0-and-2 changeup past the Oakland bullpen. In the fourth, Ross shot another changeup out to the Monster seats.
Ross’s strategy was a little different from Gomes’s. He knew Milone liked to use his sinker and he liked to come inside with his offspeed pitches. But beyond that, Ross, who had been hitless since April 21 when he homered against the Orioles, was looking to scratch one out.
“When you’re hitting — what is it, .167 coming into today or something? — there’s not a whole lot of game-planning up there, you’re just trying to get a knock any way you can,” Ross said.
He joked, “I’m going to go put that on replay in my house tonight. Watch that till I go to sleep.”
Between Saturday’s power surge and Dustin Pedroia’s grand slam on Friday, 10 of the Sox’ last 13 runs came on homers.
For Sox manager John Farrell, it was another sign that the offense is starting to click.
“I think as the warm weather starts to descend here, guys are feeling a little bit more free and easy at the plate,” Farrell said.
After leading the majors in runs last season, the Sox came into Saturday 10th in scoring and 17th in homers. It wasn’t because of a shortage of chances. Only five teams had more at-bats with runners in scoring position before Saturday, but the Sox were hitting just .223 with a chance to drive in runs.
In the past eight games, though, the Red Sox are hitting .263 as a team with 42 runs scored.
“That’s why a long time ago they picked a 162-game season because that’s how many it takes for things to even out,” Gomes said. “I liked where we were at the first month. New calendar month this time and we’re off to a good start.”