Jonny Gomes, the Cincinnati Reds Unlikely Hero: Say Hello to Mr. Clutch
We have all been so impressed with the Reds starting pitchers and depressed about the ass-end of the bullpen, that we have not given notice to the rebirth of Jonny Gomes.
If you haven't looked at the National League stats lately, he is currently the fifth best hitter in the league, sporting a .316 average, which makes him currently the best hitter on the team. He is also fifth in slugging percentage and 10th in the league in OPS.
Not bad for a man who was non-tendered by the team during the offseason. Just prior to spring training he was offered a deal and gladly accepted.
Gomes has really stepped on the gas this month. Since May 5, he is batting .429 with a .481 OBP, a slugging percentage of .771 and an unbelievable OPS of 1.253. He has also got 30 hits, belted 5 HR, and knocked in 20 during that sizzling stretch, spanning 20 games.
As a fan and a viewer of most Reds games, I can see the vast difference in Gomes from last season to this. He is much more selective on his swings. He doesn't just go up and hit a homer or strikeout as he used to.
Last night (Friday) against the Houston Astros he went 4-4 with everything but a double. He scored two, knocked in four and drew one base on balls.
In a recent series with the St. Louis Cardinals, manager Tony LaRussa said Gomes was a very dangerous hitter and seemed to play every game as though it were his last. That is high praise indeed from arguably the best manager in the game.
During the Civil Rights Game at Great American Ball Park, Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks said that he didn't know much about Gomes, but was very impressed with his intensity and by the way he played.
The Reds are certainly getting some serious return on their investment in the left-field position. According to ESPN, Gomes is making $800,000 (down from $1,275,000 last year) this season while Laynce Nix is playing for free (that is what it says on ESPN).
You can feel the excitement when Gomes comes to bat with ducks on the pond. You just feel that something good is going to happen, and it usually does. One of the Reds TV announcers, Jeff Brantley or Paul Keels, said that Gomes is leading the league in batting average (.455) with runners in scoring position. That number inflates to .583 when there are two outs thrown in the mix.
So, sure the Reds had yet another quality start, another by a rookie, this time Sam LeCure. It was very impressive indeed. But sometimes the moon is so bright you can't see the stars around it. I am sure Gomes doesn't mind being called the star in this instance.
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