Before the season began--before we knew of the Rays' struggles at the Trop--we knew this series against the Reds would be a tough one. Not because of the presence of reigning NL MVP Joey Votto. Not even "Thief in the Night" righty Mike Leake, or even Manager and "Steward of Young Arms" Dusty Baker. No, we knew this series would be a challenge for the Rays because of the return of the man, the myth, the legend, Jonny Gomes.
Arguably the greatest former Ray to return to the Trop in red (Sox or otherwise) this year, Gomes carries with him that indescribable combination of hustle, charm, and the ability deliver a haymaker with "Monster Truck Force." Coming into the game, the Reds had a GRIT of 6.9, the Rays just .420 (If you need a refresher on GRIT, SCRAP, and BRAWLFENSE, you can find it here).
Jeremy Hellickson clearly felt Gomes' presence in from the dugout tonight as he began the game in shaky fashion by allowing a leadoff single to Fred Lewis and then grooved a 3-2 offering that Brandon Phillips crushed to the base of the wall in center to drive Lewis home like he was Miss Daisy. Jay Bruce added an RBI single over the shift to plate the Reds second run of the inning. Hellickson escaped any further damage when Jonny Gomes politely lined out to left for the third out as he felt he'd intimidated the rookie enough from the dugout.
Hellickson's night was great... if you have him on your fantasy team: 6IP, 4R, 3ER, 8H, 1BB, 9K. He threw 110 pitches on the night and averaged ~91MPH on the fastball. He generated 15 swinging strikes, nine(!) on 35 change ups (25.7%). With nine strikeouts, Hell Boy clearly had "swing and miss stuff," but he lacked consistent command of those pitches, leaving change pieces up and missing all over with the fastball. Like any good ball club, the Reds took advantage of his mistakes.
One of those Reds being Jonny Gomes... after the jump...
While he was content to ride on the success of his teammates in the first inning, Gomes would not go unnoticed for long. Leading off the third inning, Gomes busted a first-pitch curveball into the C-Ring for a home run. This came as little surprise as Gomes has made a career of busting C-Rings. The homer was a lofty shot that Sam Fuld ambled back to the wall for, but, in the end, it just went too far. The ball careened off of the catwalk and actually landed a few feet from Sammy on the track. And for a moment I had a flashback to one of my favorite Gomes moments.
Later in the game, Gomes was "hit on the hand" by an Adam Russell fastball and was awarded first base. I say "hit" because the ball clearly hit the knob of the bat. I know this for three reasons: 1) The collision made the distinct *knock* sound that occurs when the ball hits the bat. 2) The ball ricocheted about ten feet toward the first base dugout which would only happen if the ball had made solid contact with the bat. 3) If Jonny Gomes had been struck with the ball he would not have shrugged it off as he did, he would have gone into GomesRage and wreaked End-of-Days-esque destruction on the men, women, and children of the Trop. Seriously, fade to black after full-on GomesRage and when you come up again it's the opening scene of The Road.
Offensively, the Rays continued their "Season of 1,000 Goose Eggs" garage band performance by getting shut out for the fifth time this month (sixth overall). Strangely, of the Rays six hits, five of them were doubles. Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce led the way with two each and John Jaso added one as well. The only other hit came off of the bat of Reid Brignac and was what Harry Doyle would call a "screamer down the line."
Defensively, both Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist made some pretty egregious errors that led to Cincinnati runs. They would also team up to make a base running gaffe in the sixth inning when Longo ran past a tagging Zobrist at second on a deep Matt Joyce fly-out to center. First-and-third, one out, became man on third and two outs. And that's how you get shut out, boys and girls.
Also on the defensive side, Sam Fuld made a highlight-reel-worthy, over-the-shoulder, diving catch in the eighth inning on a Fred Lewis fly ball. In reality, Fuld made an awful break on the ball and then took an Eric Malman-esque route, but ended up with the
lucky brilliant recovery to get the end result that'll probably be on Sportscenter.
Game tonight @ 7:10 PM. David Price faces off against Johnny Cueto. Let's hope Johnny Gomes has the night off. And stays out of the dugout. And out of the Trop. I'm not that big into the twitter thing, but I'm wondering if the next thing is #ForFearofJonnyGomes. Something like: "David Price was dominant against the Brewers, let's hope he doesn't choke tonight #ForFearofJonnyGomes." Or: "I was going to steal a wine cooler from my mom's fridge, but didn't #ForFearofJonnyGomes." Just a thought. Y'all got any more?