Jonny Gomes is immune to the rumors that tend to swirl this time of year.
Wearing five different uniforms in nine seasons has a way of making a player impervious to sudden change.
Just three years ago, the Cincinnati Reds shipped him to the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline along with a pile of money for a pair of minor league pitchers.
So when talk started churning through the rumor mill this week, Gomes brushed it off.
“I’ve got over nine years in this game,” Gomes said. “And I’ve dealt with over nine years of trade deadlines.”
If there was any irony in the fact that those rumors involved the first team the Red Sox faced coming out of the All-Star break — a bubbling-under Kansas City Royals team that came into Friday’s game just 2½ games back in the wild-card race — Gomes wasn’t interested in searching for it.
“That’s irrelevant to me,” he said.
He was more concerned with the inevitable crunch-time at-bat he’d eventually see Friday night at Fenway.
That at-bat came in the sixth inning with the Sox trailing, 4-3, with two outs and Stephen Drew on second after lacing a ground-rule double into the Sox bullpen.
Royals manager Ned Yost lifted starter James Shields for lefty sinkerballer Scott Downs, and even though Gomes’s results against Downs had been mixed, it was the kind of matchup that made Gomes’s eyes light up. He had been preparing long before the game started.
“That at-bat technically started at about 2 o’clock,” Gomes said.
Downs fed Gomes four sinkers in the six-pitch at-bat, which was one too many.
Gomes took the last one — down and away — and shipped it to dead center for a two-run home run that ultimately decided the Sox’ 5-4 win.
It was Gomes’s ninth pinch-hit home run, his second this season and sixth as a Red Sox.
After delivering in a pinch yet again, Gomes seemed less concerned with what his future might hold in the next two weeks and more assured in the role he’s carved out in two years in Boston.
“To tell you the truth, it’s something I have to do, you know?” Gomes said. “You take that away from my tools and what I have to bring to the club, you might not be seeing much of No. 5. So it’s one of my tasks, one of my jobs that I have here and I just have to do my best to succeed in that role.”
The pinch-hit blast put him one shy of Ted Williams’s seven for the most pinch-hit homers in a Red Sox uniform.
“I mean, go ahead and get it out there: I’m not chasing any of Ted Williams’s records,” Gomes joked. “I’m just extremely fortunate and lucky and grateful for the opportunity to wear the same uniform that guy wore.”
One of the reasons the Sox signed Gomes to a two-year, $10 million deal before last season, Red Sox manager John Farrell said, was because they knew his swing was custom-fitted for their ballpark.
“I think more than anything his swing is built for Fenway Park,” Farrell said. “Even though tonight’s ball goes out of dead center. We’ve seen a number of them go to the pull side. One of the reasons we targeted him prior to last year was the way his swing is built and how it would fit this ballpark and I think in those situations, I think he’s been able to take advantage of both.”
What helped line things up for Gomes was another two-run blast in the same inning.
Down, 4-1, with one out and one on, Xander Bogaerts got a hold of a cutter that Shields left up in the zone and launched it to straightway center field for his seventh homer of the season.
The blast snapped a drought for Bogaerts, who went 89 at-bats without an extra-base hit. His last homer had come June 13 against the Indians.
“Hopefully this gives him a chance to breath a little bit,” Farrell said. “It’s the first extra-base hit in a while and hopefully it allows him to see some of the work he’s been doing pregame and the video work and the countless conversations with [hitting coach Greg Colbrunn and assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez]. To see it play out with a timely home run should be a boost for him.”
Drew followed Bogaerts by tagging Shields for a double and even though Shields struck out David Ross, he was done after 5⅔ innings.
“To tell you the truth, to get James Shields out of the game in the sixth, that’s a job well done right there,” Gomes said.
After using small ball to scrounge up runs in close games for most of the first half of the season, the Sox found themselves in yet another one-run battle, but they used the long ball to squeeze out a win in Game No. 1 after the All-Star break.
They’ve won five of six games, putting up 35 runs over that stretch, carrying the momentum they started building just before the break as they try to climb out of last place in the AL East.
“Before the break and first day after the break, our goal hasn’t changed,” Gomes said. “Our goal is still to win the division and win that last game of the year. Our goal hasn’t changed one bit here.
“Obviously we understand the date and we understand that we’ve dug ourselves in a hole a little bit, but we’re not trying to ‘turn the corner’ by any means. We’re just trying to win as many games as we can.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.