Since he arrived with the Nationals in a trade from the Reds 13 days ago, Jonny Gomes has added “a uniqueness to the ball club,” Jayson Werth said. That seems an accurate description. There is only one player in the Nationals clubhouse with a Mohawk and a back covered with an enormous tattoo, prone to randomly shouting expletives as he walks past interview sessions. Somehow, he fits in just right.
On the field, Gomes has added the productive right-handed, outfield bat the Nationals have lacked all year. In a platoon role, Gomes has gone 6 for 21 with a triple, a homer and three walks in nine games. He made his biggest contribution yesterday, when he clobbered a two-run homer in the second inning of the Nationals’ 3-2 win.
“We made a great addition,” Werth said. “He’s an interesting fellow. He’s played the game a lot. He knows how to play. He’s good in the clubhouse. He’s good on the field.”
Gomes has been making a solid initial impression even in a difficult role. Gomes has platooned for the past two seasons with the Reds, but that hasn’t necessarily made it any easier.
“A lot of these guys will tell you, and I can speak firsthand, that the hardest thing to do in the big leagues in platoon,” Gomes said. “The name of the game is timing. When you don’t play that often, your timing is kind of thrown for a loop. To be able to get some consistent at-bats helps anyone out. But at the same time, we know our role here. When you get in there, you’ve got to try to put some runs on the board.”
Even with a new team, Gomes has plenty of familiarity with his platoon partner. In Cincinnati the past two seasons, Gomes faced left-handed starting pitchers while Laynce Nix stared against righties. Their close relationship, Gomes said, has helped ease the transition to his new team.
“Nix and I have done it before,” Gomes said. “We’re each other’s hitting coach. We’re each other’s No. 1 teammate. That really does help. When you’ve got a guy that you’re platooning with, he’s pulling for you to fail so he can get more time in there, that’s definitely not the situation with Nix and I.”
Yesterday, Gomes started against right-hander Aaron Cook partly because of his good history against him (6 for 12 with two homers) and partly because Nix was sick. Before Nix singled as a pinch-hitter, “he was out here sleeping for six innings,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
Either way, playing consecutive days playing helped Gomes nail down his timing. Saturday night, Gomes had 1 for 4, but he singled and walked in his last two at-bats. He still felt good when he came to the plate in his first at-bat yesterday. When Cook left a cutter over the plate, Gomes crushed it about 20 rows deep in left field.
Gomes has a track record of slugging and getting on base against left-handers, and that will make him a valuable player the rest of the season. For next year, the decision will be his to make.
The Nationals are almost certain to offer Gomes arbitration, because if he declines and signs elsewhere they would receive a compensatory draft pick, since Gomes is projected as a Type B free agent. But Gomes could also simply accept arbitration, and he would remain with the Nationals heading into 2012.
“Since the day I walked in, these guys grabbed me with open arms,” Gomes said. “So it’s not like I had to come over here and hit homers to prove myself. Everyone has been great. I’m definitely pleased and really happy to be here.”
A few other leftover nuggets from yesterday:
>>> Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 16. Zimmerman singled to center in his second at-bat, his lone hit in four at-bats. During the streak, Zimmerman is 29 for 67 (.433).
>>> After the Nationals used Tyler Clippard to get out of a jam in the seventh inning (which for once he couldn’t do), they turned to Todd Coffey in the eighth. He pitched a scoreless inning, and he felt like he had better life on his pitches. “I think it got that way from all the chairs he threw around yesterday,” Johnson said.
It’s been a rough stretch for Coffey. From June 19 until Saturday, when he was charged with three earned runs, Coffey had compiled a 7.45 ERA. Yesterday, though, Coffey focused and staying on top of the ball with his delivery, which gave his fastball a sinking action it had lacked. “It felt great to come through in a situation like that,” Coffey said.
FROM THE POST
Stephen Strasburg, and Strasmas, returned to the mound yesterday in Hagerstown, Dave Sheinin writes.
Strasburg showed the stuff and command that make him the No. 1 attraction in Washington sports, Jason Reid says.
Jayson Werth got aggressive, Drew Storen got the save, John Lannan got over a scary moment and the Nationals got a 3-2 win over the Rockies.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Columbus 6, Syrause 4: Chris Marrero went 2 for 4 with a home run and a double. Matt Antonelli went 3 for 5. Brad Peacock allowed four earned runs in five innings on seven hits and three walks, striking out four.
Harrsiburg 6, Erie 1: Bryce Harper went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk. Erik Komatsu went 2 for 4 with a home run. Oliver Perez allowed one earned run on 6 2/3 innings on four hits and one walk, striking out none.
Potomac 7, Myrtle Beach 2: Destin Hood went 2 for 4 with a walk. Sandy Leon went 2 for 4 with a home run.
Greensboro 7, Hagerstown 5 (Game 1): Stephen Strasbrg allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings on three hits and no walks, striking out four. Adrian Sanchez went 2 for 4 with a double. Blake Kelson went 2 for 3 with a triple and a walk.
Hagerstown 6, Greensboro 5 (Game 2): Michael Taylor went 2 for 4 with a triple. Jason Martinson went 2 for 2 with a home run, a double and a walk.
Auburn 7, Mahoning Valley 0: Brian Dupra allowed no runs in five innings on two hits and two walks, striking out one. Justin Miller went 1 for 3 with a homer and a walk.