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CIN@BAL: Gomes jacks his 10th homer of the season

When the seasons changed, so did the Reds' offense. Cincinnati has been on the attack since June 21, and one of the leaders has been the left fielder who now leads the Reds into his former haunts.

Jonny Gomes, who once was very big in Tampa Bay, makes his first return for the Interleague series that kicks off Monday night at Tropicana Field.

The Reds, who fly south after striking seven home runs while dropping a series in Baltimore, have scored 31 runs in five games since spring turned to summer.

Tampa Bay, of course, has the pitching staff to quiet the Reds' thumpers. The first obstacle the Rays will present is Jeremy Hellickson, who will oppose Mike Leake in the opener.

While Gomes' overall numbers don't reflect it -- he got off to a woeful start -- the outfielder has been raking for nearly two weeks, batting .371 (13-for-35) with three homers and 10 RBIs in his last dozen games.

Gomes will get a warm reception from a Rays fan base that remembers him leaving as the franchise leader in homers by a right-handed batter -- his 66 long balls have since been passed Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton -- and by his former allies, who recall him as a terrific teammate.

"Jonny, he's a competitor. He was awesome to play with, a really good teammate," recalled Longoria, who remains close to Gomes and worked out with him in the offseason. "I don't think I've ever heard anybody talk bad about him. He wants to win on a nightly basis, which is something everybody wants as a teammate."

"I'm a big Jonny Gomes fan," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I've been very happy for his success. I loved his aggressive attitude and how he plays. [He was] one of the better baserunners we had. I'm really happy for Jon, and I know the fans will ... acknowledge him in a very positive way.

"There's Jonny Gomes stories for miles from people around St. Pete and Tampa, and all of them good. He's one of those guys everybody was sad to see go, and I think everybody will be happy to see him back."

Then it'll be time to get down to some serious, important ball. Although the Rays' record is significantly better, both teams are in comparable pennant-race position: The Reds trail National League Central leader Milwaukee by four games, and the Rays are two lengths behind the Yankees in the American League East.

The Rays are returning home after averaging nearly seven runs during a 5-1 trip through Milwaukee and Houston.

Reds: Bruce hoping to get well
The Reds are hopeful that Jay Bruce can return to the lineup after he took a sick day and sat out Sunday's finale in Baltimore. "He didn't feel well [Saturday] night, [and felt] worse as the night went on," manager Dusty Baker said.

• The Reds collected nine hits and eight walks in Sunday's game, but could net only five runs by going 1-for-11 with men in scoring position.

Rays: 'Houston, we have a Longoria problem'
Houston had a big problem with Longoria, who went 8-for-14 with three homers and 10 RBIs in the series -- all after deciding to shed his batting gloves for the first time since his rookie 2008 season.

• Erratic offense? The Rays have scored two runs or fewer in 25 games -- and on Sunday registered at least eight for the ninth time.

Worth noting
• Gomes has played against 28 other Major League teams, but this will be his first against Tampa Bay. The only other team against which he has not played? The Reds, who were not on the Rays' Interleague schedule in his days in St. Petersburg.

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