Gomez's gems picking up slack

Gomez's gems picking up slack

MINNEAPOLIS -- The way Carlos Gomez sees it, he drove in three runs Monday.

That may not be the way it reads in the box score, but a pair of terrific plays in center field by Gomez may have taken away three runs from the Red Sox.

The first of Gomez's two grabs came in the third inning. With two outs and a runner on, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek sent a drive to deep center field. But the speedy Gomez stayed with it, leaped right at the 408-foot mark on the wall and stole a home run from Varitek to end the inning.

In the sixth inning, Gomez again saved an extra-base hit, this time robbing Dustin Pedroia. With Boston already leading 5-1, Pedroia drilled a sinking drive to center. Again, Gomez was there to make the catch, this time diving and sliding on the Metrodome turf in the process.

"If I don't catch those balls, it's three more runs," Gomez said. "And that's three RBIs for me."

Gomez's stronger suit has always been his fielding. The free-swinging center fielder has struggled at times at the plate, and is batting just .225 while driving in only two runs in 96 plate appearances.

But with Denard Span -- who has played 23 games in center field -- sitting out due to dizziness, Gomez has gotten the nod the past two days. Aside from two highlight-reel catches, he went 1-for-4 at the plate Monday, reaching on a double in the sixth and scoring late in the inning.

"Gomez had a good ball game," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had some good at-bats, some quality at-bats. He battled. That's a good positive."

Still, Gardenhire realizes that some things need to change in the way Gomez approaches his at-bats.

"It's a work in progress. We know what he is," Gardenhire said. "We understand that when he gets out there with RBI situations, he gets a little crazy and swings too hard. But [Monday], he actually calmed himself down enough to have some good at-bats."

Unlike fellow teammate and good friend Alexi Casilla, who was sent to Triple-A Rochester when his hitting was affecting his fielding, Gomez hasn't let his woes at the plate impact his defense.

"I never put together hitting and defense, because they're too different," Gomez said. "When I'm in center field, I get it in my mind and tell myself, 'You have to catch every ball.'"

Whether or not Span will play Tuesday probably won't be decided until he gets to the ballpark. And with Delmon Young struggling at the plate -- with six strikeouts in two games since returning from the family medical emergency list -- there's a good chance Gomez will be roaming the outfield for the second straight game against Boston.

And that means he'll have to keep his confidence high if he hopes to hold onto a spot in the lineup.

"Some fly balls nobody thinks we can catch, I'll be there," Gomez said "A fly ball to left field, I'll be behind the left fielder, because you never know what's going to happen. That's why I try to play the best defense for my team."

Pitching matchup
BOS: LHP Jon Lester (3-4, 5.91 ERA)
The 25-year-old southpaw improved to 4-2 in his past six decisions last Thursday against the Blue Jays, scattering eight hits over 6 1/3 frames of one-run ball at Fenway Park. Despite allowing 10 baserunners, Lester worked his way out of trouble on several occasions to emerge relatively unscathed. He has been tagged for eight earned runs in 14 2/3 career innings against the Twins.

MIN: RHP Nick Blackburn (3-2, 3.83 ERA)
Blackburn pitched seven scoreless innings Thursday in a 20-1 victory over the White Sox. The Twins scored so many runs that Blackburn had to do extra stretching between innings, and it wasn't worth risking injury to try to have him finish the game, even though both he and Gardenhire agreed that he could have. Blackburn scattered four hits and three walks and struck out two to pick up his first victory since April 29 against Tampa Bay. He has struggled in three career appearances (two starts) against Boston, going 1-1 with a 6.59 ERA.

Tidbits
With his pinch-hit two-run home run Monday, Joe Mauer collected his 30th and 31st RBIs, all of which have come in May. That sets a new Twins record for the month of May, surpassing the old mark of 29, set by Harmon Killebrew in 1961. ... With homers by Mauer and Michael Cuddyer on Monday, the Twins have now hit 37 homers in May, second in all of baseball behind only the New York Yankees. ... Minnesota has homered in eight straight games. The last time the Twins did so was back in August 2005. ... Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano is now 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox, with the other loss coming on April 22.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Twins (Kevin Slowey, 6-1, 4.23) vs. Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 0-2, 10.32), 7:10 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Twins (Anthony Swarzak, 1-0, 0.00) vs. Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 4-2, 5.01), 12:10 p.m. CT
• Friday: Twins (Scott Baker, 2-5, 6.32) at Rays (James Shields, 3-4, 3.63), 6:38 p.m. CT

Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.