By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
RAYS 7, ROYALS 3: Rightfielder makes Rays history with the club's first three-homer game.
ST. PETERSBURG - Had Jonny Gomes been given a choice, he said he would have preferred being hit in the face with a cream pie rather than one of shaving cream.
The cream, he said, would have tasted a whole lot better.
Given the circumstances, it was a small price to pay. The Devil Rays rightfielder smacked three home runs Saturday night in Tampa Bay's 7-3 victory over the Royals at Tropicana Field.
No player in the franchise's eight-season history had done it. And other than Wade Boggs in 1999 after his 3,000th hit, no Rays player had been asked for a curtain call.
Gomes said he wasn't sure he was going to accept. But when bench coach John McLaren gave him the go-ahead, Gomes waved to the cheering crowd of 11,940.
"You have so many things you want to achieve on the big-league level, a curtain call isn't one of them," Gomes said. "But it's good to know the fans appreciate it."
So did teammate Travis Lee, who pushed shaving cream into Gomes' face while Gomes spoke on the Rays radio postgame show.
"I just thought he deserved it," Lee said.
Tampa Bay deserves some credit as well. The Rays, who have won the first three of the four-game series with Kansas City, are 11-5 since the All-Star break and at 39-66 stepped over the 38-66 Royals and out of the AL cellar.
It was not a one-man show.
Centerfielder Joey Gathright had three hits, including a triple, and made a diving catch in the ninth inning of Ruben Gotay's sinking liner.
Catcher Toby Hall had two hits and two RBIs. Relievers Chad Orvella, Trever Miller, Joe Borowski and Jesus Colome pitched a combined 32/3 scoreless innings without a hit to ensure the victory for starter Doug Waechter.
But it was difficult to look past Gomes, 24, whose 12 home runs tied Bobby Smith for the club rookie record and are two behind Oakland's Nick Swisher for the AL rookie lead.
"He's a strong kid," manager Lou Piniella said. "He takes his hacks up there."
"It was amazing what he was doing," Royals starter Zack Greinke said. "I don't know why but I was thinking this guy can't hit breaking balls. It was a bad game plan."
Not completely as Gomes struck out on a curveball in the second inning.
Gomes belted a slider 388 feet over the left-centerfield wall in the third inning to make the score 3-0. He crushed a curveball 411 feet to leftfield in the fifth for a 5-0 lead.
Gomes said he wasn't thinking home run when he faced reliever Mike McDougal in the eighth.
"You just don't want to look like an idiot," he said. "Then everybody remembers that."
Instead, Gomes parked a fastball 385 feet to left to put the Rays ahead 6-3.
"That was special," Waechter said. "He had a spectacular night."
After his curtain call, Gomes, who said he uses the same 34-inch, 311/2-ounce bat model as Barry Bonds, was cheered again on his way to rightfield in the ninth.
"It's an awesome experience," he said. "It's a rush and an adrenaline rush."
It was Gomes' second three-homer game as a pro and his second curtain call. He said both came in the winter Mexican League.
As for the shaving cream pie, Gomes said, "I've handed out more than I've received."
So it was nice to be on the receiving end, regardless of the flavor.