Gomez finally got his wish in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Mariners and his pinch-hit leadoff double sparked the Rangers to a 3-1 victory at Safeco Field. The win put the Rangers 3 1/2 games back of the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot.
“That was huge for sure,” Elvis Andrus said. “He is one of the guys we have been missing in the lineup and on defense. He has been trying hard to get back and today he showed he is getting there.”
The game was 1-1 going into the eighth with left-hander Marc Rzepczynski on the mound for the Mariners and left-handed hitting Drew Robinson up for the Rangers. Banister sent Gomez up to pinch-hit knowing the Mariners would bring in right-hander Nick Vincent to face him.
It was Gomez’s first at-bat since Sept. 9, when he sprained his ankle against the Yankees. Banister, with the rosters expanded, had plenty of options on the bench, including veteran right-handed hitters Mike Napoli, Ryan Rua and Will Middlebrooks, or rookie Willie Calhoun, who hits left-handed.
Banister opted to go with Gomez, who had been taking batting practice for the past few days while slowly accelerating his running program.
“I’ve felt really good hitting the past four or five days,” Gomez said. “I feel really good.”
Banister said the situation fit perfectly for Gomez.
“Big-time experience hitting in that situation,” Banister said. “The power … the hitting ability … he knows how to lead off an inning. He has a little more experience in that situation. We knew we were going to pinch-run for him, but we were willing to take the shot.”
Gomez took a called strike one and then hit a drive down the right-field line. The ball landed just inside fair territory and bounced into the corner, allowing Gomez to turn it into a double.
“He hadn’t played … I don’t know the last time,” outfielder Delino DeShields said. “After the first pitch, it looked like he was hurting. But he simplified his approach and put the barrel on the ball and found a way to get to second base. It was the turning point of the game. He came out there and did his thing. Huge at-bat.”
Middlebrooks ran for Gomez and moved to third when DeShields beat out a sacrifice bunt for a single. Shin-Soo Choo brought home the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly and, after DeShields stole second, Andrus singled home a run to make it 3-1.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.