04/05/08 5:57 PM ET
Gomes drives in four runs as Rays win
Three-run shot in the fifth proves decisive blow
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
After sitting out Friday's game due to his one-game suspension, which had been reduced from two games, Gomes made his first start of the season in right field. And the start proved to be an eventful one.
Gomes' slate began with two negative checks. The first came when he got thrown out at second base after hitting a ball off the right-field wall -- not over it -- and getting thrown out at second while in a home run trot.
"I play right [field] over there, and I know it's a tough corner," Gomes said. "If you hit the wall over there, normally it bounces off and kicks off to the side. So I thought if it wasn't out, it was a standup double. Caught a break for them on the bounce and threw me out."
Rays manager Joe Maddon did not have to dress down Gomes when he returned to the dugout.
"He knew he screwed up," Maddon said.
In the second inning, Gomes let a fly ball drop next to him, which helped the Yankees load the bases.
"I lost it -- high sky, real big winds blowing from left to right," Gomes said.
But with two swings of his bat, Gomes managed to turn around his fortunes. First came a sacrifice fly in the third that scored Carl Crawford to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
Gomes delivered again in the fifth when he ripped a 2-2 changeup from Andy Pettitte into the left-field stands for a three-run homer and a 5-1 Rays lead.
"It's how you bounce back and deal with adversity," Gomes said. "Who can make the most adjustments the fastest? ... Peaks and valleys, that's what you're going to get over a long season."
Gomes said he would dwell on the three-run homer rather than the other aspects of his day.
"I'm going to build my day on the positive, not the negative," Gomes said. "[I] lost a ball in a high sky; [that] doesn't make me a bad outfielder. That's all it is. [I] thought I hit a ball out, it hit the top of the fence -- it is what it is. It doesn't make me a bad ballplayer."
Maddon called Gomes' day "the tale of two players," adding, "He redeemed himself with the home run. That was very, very big for us today. He had two different kinds of games today."
Gomes has experienced an interesting sequence of events in recent weeks. First, there was the bench-clearing brawl with the Yankees he took part in during Spring Training, then came the suspension for the brawl and the serving of his sentence, followed by Saturday's up-and-down game.
"He's really able to just let it fall off his back," Maddon said. "He's not going to carry it with him. He's not one of those guys who lugs it around. He's one of those guys [for whom] when it's over, it's over, and that's a good quality to have in this game. ... Personality-wise, he's able to go with the flow."
While Gomes took care of the offense, Edwin Jackson could be lauded for a gutty pitching performance that saw him struggle during the first two innings before finishing with a line that showed one run in six innings en route to his first win of the season.
"He's one of those guys, once he gets into the flow of the game, he can be really tough," Maddon said.
Jackson showed poise while escaping a jam in the second that saw the Yankees load the bases with one out without scoring.
"That's just a big thing, getting out of the big innings," Jackson said. "I felt like that was my big inning for the day, and if we got out of that, we'd definitely have a chance."
In 2007, the enigmatic Jackson did not win his first game until June 24.
"Wins come and go, but getting a quality start and giving my team a chance to win, that's the biggest thing," Jackson said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.