Gomes sparks Sox; Lackey baffles Braves


BOSTON -- When the Boston Red Sox were attempting to win the World Series in October, manager John Farrell took the scouting reports, statistics and matchups and tossed them all in the garbage when it came to deciding whether to put Jonny Gomes in the lineup.

The manager went with his gut and it worked.

Gomes started 11 games during the 2013 postseason and the Red Sox went 10-1 with him in the lineup. His teammates fed off his energy and persona.

This season, the Red Sox have struggled and recently endured a 10-game losing skid. Despite facing back-to-back right-handers in the past two games, once again Farrell thought it best to dismiss the matchups and start the right-handed hitting Gomes.

"He's one of the players that makes others around him better," Farrell said. "The way he talks the game, the confidence in which he speaks. And he goes out and backs it up with somewhat of the body language and the energy that he displays every night. He doesn't take anything for granted, he's had to work for everything that he's received throughout his career. It's a guy that plays on the edge and you feel it when he's standing in the batter's box or the way he interacts with everybody in the clubhouse."

On Wednesday, Gomes went 2-for-3 with a walk, one RBI and two runs scored to help the Red Sox to a 4-0 win over the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. It was Boston's third consecutive win, the first time this season the Red Sox have won three in a row.

"It's always a compliment when he puts me in the game, or puts me in the lineup in the beginning," Gomes said. "I don't think I'm playing out of my shoes right now. I'm just trying to do what I can to generate some runs and help this ballclub win. [Being called] a spark plug is a compliment, but I'm not one to ever applaud hustle or ever applaud playing the game right, because I think everyone should and that's what I try to do every single day is playing the game right."

Gomes believes in the pitch-to-pitch, game-to-game mentality. Everywhere he has played, his teams have enjoyed success. It's a role he's mastered, and the Red Sox are reaping the benefits of late.

"Tomorrow's not a guarantee for me," he said. "I just run it out there and anyway I can generate a run on the board and hopefully take one off on defense is all I'm trying to do."

Gomes added, "It can be exhausting at times, but I've done it for a while to where every pitch, every at-bat is not so much pressure, but I put a lot on it and have a lot of pride in it. Even if I do play sparingly I want to get in there and try to affect the game somehow."

As poorly as the Red Sox played during that recent skid, they've been opportunistic in the past few games. Starter John Lackey, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., all contributed to Wednesday's victory.

Lackey worked 6 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed only eight hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts. With the win, the right-hander improved to 6-3 in 11 starts this season. It was the third time this season Lackey has registered at least nine K's.

"He was great, he just had command. Keeping the ball down, making pitches when he had to, commanding multiple pitches," said Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "When John does that he's pretty tough, especially in this park with the wind blowing in."

This season has been an eye-opening experience for rookies Bogaerts and Bradley. But with more playing time, both are showing signs of becoming more consistent. On Wednesday, Bogaerts went 3-for-4, including a double, a walk and a run scored. He has reached base safely in 10 of his last 11 games. Bradley went 2-for-4 with a double and RBI.

"We're trying to win the World Series again, we're not trying to just run it out there," Gomes said. "They're on a roll right now and we've got to continue to put some weight on their shoulders and they've got to carry it as well."

Added Gomes, "It's a pretty veteran team, but at the same time the young guys are really young. You've got to let them fail, you really do. You need to let them fail and get themselves out and if they can't that's when you come in. You succeed and fail on your own."

Within the Red Sox clubhouse there's a feeling that the recent losing skid never existed. Ask players about it, and they'll brush it off as if it didn't happen. The players believe they can easily win 10 games in a row, too.

"Obviously, it wasn't ideal," Gomes said of the losing skid. "No one truly had their head in the sand, no one was ready to throw in the white towel on the season, by any means. It was just a rough patch, but this team does a pretty good job of turning the page, cleaning the slate once we leave these double doors here, and likewise on a win. What we did tonight doesn't matter tomorrow. We'll clean the slate and get back to work tomorrow."