In the fifth inning last night, Jonny Gomes crashed into the left field fence at full speed. “I was worried he might have hurt the wall,” Manager Davey Johnson said. Gomes had good reason for the risky effort.
When he tumbled to the warning track, the ball somehow still in his glove, his catch of Joey Votto’s line drive ended the inning and stranded Brandon Phillips on base, keeping a scoreless game tied. “A life-saver,” Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann said.
For Gomes, the play meant more than saving a run. He came up with the Tampa Bay Rays, an organization at the time loaded with talented, athletic outfielders – he played on teams in the minors and majors with Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, for three examples. He believed he could play the outfield, but the Rays made him a designated hitter and a part-time outfielder.
“The defense is a little limelight for me,” Gomes said. “I DH’d my first four years in the big leagues over in Tampa. Coming over to the National League, there’s a quote-unquote label about my defense. It’s tough when you put your glove down for four years and pick it back up. I don’t care what the trade is, you’re going to be a little bit rusty. When I’m able to do stuff like that, it turns the non-believes into believers.”
Gomes also delivered a two-run singles against the Reds, the team that traded him to the Nationals this July after he played there for two and a half seasons. He said beating his old team did not provide extra satisfaction. But he also noticed that the Reds’ left fielder, Dave Sappelt, made the final out of the game with runners on base.
“My main objective over here is to win ballgames and help this team,” Gomes said. “It’s not like we took two of three from the Reds and now my season’s over.
“But it is ironic. I get up last night with the game on the line. I get up tonight, somewhat with the game on the line in the sixth. If you don’t believe in baseball Gods, there you have it, right there. And then their left fielder gets up with the game on the line.”