- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
For five years, Carlos Gomez says, he listened to others tell him what he needed to do to be successful. "They wanted me to hit line drives, hit the ball on the ground," he said Tuesday, over the phone. "They treat me like one of the fast guys."
Gomez's image of himself as a player was different from that. Oh, sure, he has big-time speed, but when Gomez played winter ball, he would swing very hard and try to drive the ball and felt he was a very different player, and a better player. He felt he knew why.
As he came back from a broken collarbone late in 2011, he met with manager Ron Roenicke and talked about the player he felt he could be. "I'm going to try something different," Gomez said to Roenicke. "I've been trying this for five years, and it doesn't work. I want to be me."
Many at-bats later, Roenicke complimented Gomez on his adjustment, on understanding what type of player he needed to be, because clearly, something is very different; now, something works, in a way that it hadn't in the years he was with the Twins and at the outset of his time with the Brewers. Gomez felt he was at an important crossroads, changed, and now he's better for it.
"I've taken my ability and shown what kind of player I can be," said Gomez, who clubbed 19 homers last year, among 42 extra-base hits, and is now hitting a league-high .364, with 8 doubles, 2 triples and 6 homers.
Gomez spoke Tuesday about two drills that have helped -- two drills he does regularly. A lot of hitters focus on taking the ball to the opposite field, but Gomez has a drill that forces him to pull the ball. Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron sets up behind a screen about 10 to 15 feet away from Gomez and flip balls directly at his hip with some pace, and this requires Gomez to swing quickly, efficiently and hit the ball before it hits him. Sometimes, he says, the ball hits him early in the drill.
In the other drill that Gomez described, he stands at home plate, bat in hand, and watches about 30 to 50 pitches -- only watching. He doesn't swing. He focuses on tracking the ball, on following the spin of the ball, so that when he's in a game, he is locked in on the flight of the ball and can react to it better.
When in games, Gomez tries to hit the ball as far as he can to straightaway center field, and through this approach, the counsel of others (including Manny Ramirez), and his own vision of what he is, he has found success.
Around the league
• It's hard to imagine a more scary moment in a game than we saw Tuesday night, when J.A. Happ took a line drive off the side of his head. There was a sickening thud and it hits home, as R.A. Dickey explains within this Brendan Kennedy piece.
This will renew conversation about whether there is some equipment that could be put in place to protect pitchers -- most notably, a cap lined with some sort of protective covering, as has been discussed.
After Happ was hurt, the game seemed irrelevant, writes Tom Jones.
• We had Indians manager Terry Francona on the podcast, and he told a couple of stories that became legend with the "Sunday Night Baseball" crew: The Zipper Mishap, and separately, The Target Pants Story. And we talked a lot about the Indians.
• So the movement has started to line up Matt Harvey as the All-Star Game starter in Citi Field, because, well, he's pretty much unhittable. His outing against the White Sox Tuesday night was Goodenesque. He joined Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers since 1900 to pitch nine innings, strike out at least 12, allow one or fewer hits and get a no-decision.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Harvey dominated:
A. He got 20 of his 27 outs, including nine strikeouts, on pitches on the outer third of the plate or further outside. A career-high 63 percent of his pitches were outer-third. Of the 13 right-handed batters he retired, 11 came on outer-third pitches (see image).
B. Harvey retired the first 20 hitters he faced and threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of them. The first 2-0 count Harvey went to came to Adam Dunn, the batter after Alex Rios' infield single broke up the perfect-game bid.
C. He started ahead 0-1 to 17 of 28 batters and threw first-pitch strikes to 20. Rios' hit came after an 0-1 count, but for the season hitters are 9 for 102 (.088) against Harvey after starting behind 0-1, the lowest average against any starting pitcher this season.
D. For the first time in his career, Harvey did not allow a "well-hit" ball, as judged by the Inside Edge scouting service.
E. The White Sox put nine of Harvey's off-speed pitches in play and hit eight on the ground. A season-high 66 percent of his off-speed pitches were down in the zone or below it (season average entering was 57 percent).
The Mets won in a walk-off, as Jorge Arangure writes.
From ESPN Stats & Info: This is the only the second time in the past 30 years that teammates have hit two-out, back-to-back game-tying and walk-off homers. The other instance was June 1, 2004 when the Braves' Nick Green hit a game-tying homer and J.D. Drew hit the walk-off homer. The last time the Reds did it was Aug. 27, 1977, when Dan Driessen tied the score and Johnny Bench hit a walk-off homer against the Phillies.
The win was No. 1,600 for Dusty Baker, who passed Tommy Lasorda to take over 18th place on the all-time wins list for managers.
• The Padres continue to build momentum, as Corey Brock writes, and were helped along by a weird home run.
Moves, deals and decisions
5. The White Sox have a couple of guys coming back and are pondering their options.
Dings and dents
6. The Red Sox lost two players on one play.
2. The Rockies got some great pitching.
4. The Yankees were shut down.
5. It was a close game; it was the Orioles. You know the rest.
6. K.C. had more bullpen miseries.
8. For the Dodgers, the losing continues.
9. Once again, the Rays blew a lead.
10. Craig Kimbrel and the Braves had their guts ripped out. Kimbrel already has allowed as many homers as he did all of last year, and maybe there will be a conversation about mixing his pitches a little more: According to FanGraphs, he's throwing a lot more fastballs than last year -- by about 10 percent. Both homers were on fastballs -- first Mesoraco and then Choo.
Carlos Gomez is succeeding because Milwaukee Brewers are allowing him to be himself, writes Buster Olney.