Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes is keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com. In this playoff edition, he reveals the memory he will keep from the ALDS, where the team watched the Tigers-A’s game together, and how do they beat the Tigers? -- As told to Louise K. Cornetta
How did we beat the Rays? Pretty simple, we scored more than they did. We did it with some big hits in the first two games and then really had to grind in Game 4. Those games in Tampa weren’t easy. If you make the playoffs, you’re a good ball club. You can’t make the playoffs by accident in this league after a 162 game season. We knew we had our work cut out for us as they did. It’s not getting any easier with Detroit coming to town.
I can’t say there is one person who is the unsung hero in the ALDS to tell you the truth. I think our starting pitching as whole did an unbelievable job, our bullpen did an unbelievable job too. We had some timely hitting with Big Papi [David Ortiz] going deep twice. We’ve done things as a team the whole year. It’s never been about one person carrying the load. That’s why while it was good to get my first postseason hit, I wasn’t too worried about myself or personal stats. I really just want to help this team win. Which is why the memory I will take with me from the Rays series is really the team celebration. It was a team win. It was a great opportunity to share everything with my teammates.
We enjoyed celebrating advancing to the ALCS. You may have seen the Army helmet I wore when we won the AL East and punting beers are still my thing. I guess you have to have a trademark one way or another. It was a fun time. It was something special to get all our guys together. When you see other teams and the way they celebrate, the harder the celebration relates to the hard work that went into this. For us, going from worst to first in a single season to turn things around with a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of baseball grinding all went into our celebration.
We like to play our music during the celebration. Some old Drake gets played a lot but we have music junkies in this clubhouse. We have a nice little mix of different genres going on. It’s pretty wild. We also like t-shirts with catchphrases on this team. There’s always t-shirts getting thrown around whether it’s someone making them up or someone sending them. There has been so many awesome moments that it’s always good to try and capture them on a t-shirt.
Our good luck charm, the cigar-store Indian that Jake Peavy got us in August, has gotten into the spirit of things as he wears a beard now. He also now wears an Air Force baseball cap which was a gift from a soldier. He doesn’t have a name yet though. He hasn’t told us yet what his name is, and yes, he does speak to us.
Speaking of names, my beard has a name: Ironsides. All the beards have names which you may have seen on a poster or on twitter with the hashtag #GetBeard. Ironsides has been my nickname for a while since I came over here. It’s a tribute to the USS Constitution that’s parked over in Boston Harbor.
The long layoff we had before the Tampa series didn’t hurt us and I expect the same going into the Tigers series. This is a veteran ball club. The work we have to get done, will get done. We have some opportunities during our workouts to get some live at-bats from pitchers who throw live innings. I think we will be alright.
David Ortiz had the team over to his house on Thursday night. This was the third one that he had after we clinched something. It’s become a tradition that we go over there after we win a big series. We all watched the Tigers-A’s game together from there and saw that we’ll be facing Detroit in the ALCS.
With Detroit, you can’t get to the American League Championship Series without good hitting, good pitching, and good defense. They’re built for the playoffs. They’re strong. They have a Triple Crown and MVP winner on their team in Miguel Cabrera. They have a Cy Young Award winner and MVP in Justin Verlander. They have a lot of dangerous hitters on this team. We have our work cut out. We have to continue to play the baseball we have.
As I mentioned, the Tigers have good pitching. Max Scherzer is someone whose work speaks for itself. He’s throwing upwards in the nineties. He can throw a sinker, a cutter and has a slider to go along with everything else. He just pounds the strike zone. I’d say it’s pretty self-explanatory why he has the numbers he has this year. Verlander came up big for Detroit in Game 5. But that’s not the first time he’s done that, so it’s kind of expected. He’s always a battle facing him.
When you make it to the American League Championship, all your starting positions are going to be strong as well as having a big bench. The Tigers have all that. They also have our former teammate Iggy [Jose Iglesias] over there. He played with us for a while. That’s one storyline to look for because I’m sure that’s going to get a lot of press.
So I’m sure you want to know how do we beat Detroit? Just like Tampa I guess, we’re going to have to score more runs than them in the ninth, that’s what we’ve got going. We just have to continue to play 2013 Red Sox baseball with pitching, defense and timely hitting of course. We’re able to apply some pressure on the basepaths too. We need to continue to do that.
If you’ve paid attention to this team all the way back to when we were in Fort Myers in spring training, we’ve been having fun. Whether it’s team meetings, team get-togethers or high fives. Obviously, everyone growing the beards together because it’s fun. There’s a lot of chemistry and unique personalities on this team. We’re rolling with it and having fun in the playoffs.
It’s always great to have homefield advantage in the playoffs. Fenway is great in October. But I’ll tell you what, it’s pretty much special all year round. I tell people I work in a museum. It’s always special.