There were a lot of words written about the trade that swapped Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester on July 31, and it was no secret that the Oakland Athletics hoped to recoup some of the offense they lost with Cespedes by acquiring Jonny Gomes in the deal. However, the addition of Gomes always seemed like a footnote in the trade, despite the large impact he can have in certain situations. One reason is probably that he just wasn't making that impact initially, but that's starting to change.
In his first stint in Oakland in 2012, the Pride of Petaluma batted .262/.377/.491 in 333 plate appearances. And, contrary to the narrative that he was a strict platoon player, 41 percent of those plate appearances (and 39 percent of his homers) came against right-handed pitching, so he was just an all-around good hitter. That was certainly a best-case scenario for Gomes, and we shouldn't expect to see him repeat those numbers (as he didn't last year in hitter-friendly Fenway Park).
Indeed, his second go-around in Oakland didn't start well. He got two hits in his first game, but one of them was a popup that Billy Butler lost in the sun and thus was a complete gift. In his first dozen contests, Gomes went 4-for-22 (.182/.296/.182), with two of his three RBI coming in that initial two-hit game.
However, he's shown signs of life in his last few appearances. On Saturday he faced C.J. Wilson, who he will see again in the series opener against the Angels on Thursday, and he lined a single in his first at-bat; he later came around to score the game's first run in an eventual 2-1 nailbiter. He also drew a walk against Wilson his next time up.
On Tuesday, Gomes singled up the middle against Dallas Keuchel to drive in the first run against Houston, and then in his next at-bat he singled and eventually scored what proved to be the team's only other run of the night.
He also made a spectacular diving catch to rob Chris Carter of extra bases and a pair of RBI, which made Gomes the only Athletic who could figure out how to stop the big man.
On Wednesday, he entered a scoreless game in the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded and one out; he successfully lofted a sac fly to bring in a run and give the team the lead. In the ninth inning, staring at a 3-2 deficit, he notched a leadoff single (off a righty) to spark a game-winning rally.
In other words, the last three times he's played, Gomes has either driven in or scored the first run of the game. In those contests, he's 4-for-8 with a walk and two RBI. The A's needed an offensive sparkplug, and old Ironsides (as Baseball-Reference calls him, for some reason) has finally answered the call.
Gomes' overall numbers with the A's are a mixed bag. His line of .286/.371/.286 shows that he's doing a good job of getting on base (5 BB, 8 K's), but it also reveals the fact that he doesn't yet have an extra-base hit in 35 plate appearances. Of course, with the frequency with which the A's tend to get on base, even consistent singles and sac flies would be enough to make Gomes a solid run producer in the middle of the order until some poor hurler feeds him a mistake pitch to punish.
Gomes is hitting cleanup on Thursday against Wilson, and that's good news because he had a fine showing against the southpaw in their last meeting. If the Angels go with a lefty on Saturday (Randy Wolf or Mike Roth), we could see Jonny twice in Anaheim.
A's fans were short one hero to cheer for after Cespedes was dealt, and Jonny has the chance to fill that void beautifully. He plays a key role on the roster and does a good job of it, and he's a guy we already knew and loved. He brings a great attitude and the postseason experience that pundits drool over. He's a clubhouse leader who has previously led this very clubhouse, and he's a local boy with a sweet beard to boot. Oh, and now he's starting to hit.
Jonny Gomes is back, and his timing couldn't have been better. Welcome home.