Gomes excited for regular playing time
Tampa Bay (57-40) vs. Oakland (51-47), Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET
ST. PETERSBURG -- While Jonny Gomes is known for bringing a high level of energy to the Rays' clubhouse, the 27-year-old will be extra amped entering the A's series.
Relegated to a bench role, the right-handed hitter is expected to see significant playing time during the three-game series, as Oakland will send three lefties to the hill.
Gomes got his 11th start in right field on Sunday afternoon. The outfielder dubbed Saturday night "Christmas Eve," as he was visibly excited to string together consecutive days of playing time.
"It would probably be a lot more frustrating if the team wasn't winning, if me sitting on the bench wasn't working," Gomes said.
"But apparently, it is. These other guys are stepping in, and these guys are getting their opportunities and doing a lot with their opportunities. ... That's how you go to the playoffs. You go with pitching and defense and a deep bench. And that's what this team has."
Although Gomes relishes playing on the first-place Rays, he admits it can be tough to deal with the long breaks and stay on top of his game.
"At this point, I know the role, and I know how to approach the role," he said. "The hardest part, though, is there is no tomorrow. You can maybe go 0-for-2 with two walks, but you have four good at-bats -- [as a starter] you can build on that for tomorrow's start. When you have the role I have, there is no tomorrow. It's just today."
The lack of at-bats often causes Gomes to chase pitches in search of an elusive home run or extra-base hit.
"You don't feel more pressure, but you want to do good yourself," he said. "Since you don't have tomorrow, you want to do good right now."
On Sunday afternoon, he got warmed up with a two-out double off Toronto's John Parrish. He also drew a walk, lifting his on-base percentage to .297.
Although Gomes has struggled at the plate, hitting just .189, Rays manager Joe Maddon says the outfielder has taken his limited role in stride.
"He's been great," Maddon said. "He supports everybody. ... Everybody understands what's at stake. At this point, if you are more concerned about yourself than the team, that's not a good thing."Pitching matchup
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir(7-5, 3.04 ERA)
Kazmir picked up the loss in his last start, on July 13 against the Indians, when he allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings. Kazmir last won on June 27 at Pittsburgh and is 1-4 in his past five decisions. He has also made it into the seventh inning just once in his past seven starts. Kazmir is still working on commanding his slider, which historically has been his best pitch. Without it, he has primarily used a fastball-changeup combination this season. He is 5-1 with a 2.96 ERA in nine career starts against the Athletics. OAK: LHP Dana Eveland (7-6, 3.49 ERA)
Early struggles continued to plague Eveland in his last start against the Angels. He allowed two runs in the opening frame, prompting him to say afterward that he may need to tone down his first-inning effort to 80 percent. In 5 2/3 innings, he struck out five but also walked five. His only start agaisnt Tampa Bay was his first career complete game. He gave one run on just three hits while walking one and fanning five in the win. Tidbits
Maddon said the decision to use Evan Longoria as the designated hitter on Sunday afternoon was precautionary after the rookie fouled two balls off his left ankle. Longoria made his presence known at the plate, blasting his team-leading -- and rookie-leading -- 18th home run in the third inning. ... After Saturday night's win, the Rays are now 14-1 at home in front of crowds of 30,000 or more. ... Carlos Pena's home run on Sunday afternoon was his 61st homer as a member of the Rays, putting him fifth on Tampa Bay's all-time home run list. ... The nine earned runs allowed in Sunday's loss were the most allowed by Rays pitching at Tropicana Field this season. ... Troy Percival threw one scoreless inning on Sunday, marking his first outing since being reinstated from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game. The veteran closer allowed one hit and struck out one, and although he admitted his mechanics were a little off, he reported no pain. "I needed to go out there and see some hitters in a live situaiton," Percival said. "Now I'm confident I can go out there and do what I need to do." Tickets
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Tuesday: Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 10-4, 4.58) vs. Athletics (Dallas Braden, 1-0, 4.80), 7:10 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Rays (James Shields, 8-6, 3.69) vs. Athletics (Greg Smith, 5-8, 3.79), 12:40 p.m. ET
Thursday: Rays (Matt Garza, 8-5, 3.68) at Royals (Gil Meche, 7-9, 4.55), 8:10 p.m. ET
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.