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Gomes tries to punch through trade chatter

ST. PETERSBURG — If the Rays want to trade for another right-handed-hitting outfielder, there's nothing Jonny Gomes can do about it.

But he can give them reasons not to pursue Cleveland's Casey Blake or Pittsburgh's Xavier Nady or others, such as the catwalk-scraping, 442-foot two-run homer he hit in the fifth inning to spark Wednesday's win.

"I'm the right-handed bat they have right now; if they feel they need to make a change, it's up to the staff and the manager," Gomes said. "But I'm not going to change being Jonny Gomes.

"Here we are in July. There's no tryouts in July. They know what they have here. If they want to change, hopefully it will help the team go, or hopefully it will be well for me. The main thing is I've been here since '01, and I'd love to stay here and help this team win."

Given the rare chance to start four consecutive games, Gomes went 3-for-8 with three walks and two stolen bases, prompting manager Joe Maddon to say, "He's done some nice work for us." Overall, Gomes is hitting .197 with eight homers, 19 RBIs and a .310 on-base percentage.

SHIELDS UP: The offense got the headlines, but Maddon said starter James Shields deserved the credit for Wednesday's victory, allowing six hits (including two solo homers in a four-pitch span in the second inning) while striking out seven and walking none.

"It's all about the pitching," Maddon said. "Shields doing what he did this afternoon permitted us to get that win."

Shields moved into third place on the Rays' all-time wins list with 27 while improving to a sterling 7-1 with a 2.16 ERA at home (though he is 2-5 with a 6.26 ERA on the road).

"It's homefield advantage — this is where I pitch half my games during the season," Shields said. "I've got to get better at road games."

ROADIES: Shields isn't alone in struggling away from home. The Rays' differential between their home and road records — 40-16 vs. 19-25 — is the third largest in the majors.

And with 37 of their final 62 games on the road, starting tonight in Kansas City, that could be a problem. The biggest difference is the extra two runs a game their pitchers seem to allow. The same staff that has a major-league-best 2.93 home ERA ranks in the bottom third with a 4.93 road ERA.

Maddon said the difference is more mental than anything, and he addressed it during his post-All-Star-break team meeting.

"The one thing I did talk about more than anything is composure; when things get a little bit hot just maintaining your level of thought," he said. "It's all about what you think, and how you think. To me it's not because they're any more skillful here or less skillful there, it's how you approach the day, it's how you handle difficult moments when you're away from a comfortable environment. So it comes down to what you think, and that's composure."

BACK TO BACK: Gomes and Ben Zobrist were not only the first to hit consecutive homers off the A's this season; it was the first time they'd given up two homers in an inning. … It was the fourth time the Rays had gone back to back. … The A's back-to-back homers off Shields were the third tandem the Rays have allowed.

MISCELLANY: RHP Troy Percival picked up his 344th career save, three behind Randy Myers for eighth place on the all-time list. … The Parks & Rec Day crowd of 23,437 was largest for a midweek day game of the season. … B.J. Upton's double was his first extra-base hit since July 8. … Rain is forecast for all four days in Kansas City. … Former Rays GM Chuck LaMar, now director of pro scouting for the Phillies, was seated among the scouts.

Gomes tries to punch through trade chatter 07/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 28, 2008 2:10pm]
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