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Ortiz blast provides timely lift

The image of 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound David Ortiz trotting around the bases has become familiar and unforgettable recently. Familiar because Ortiz has hit home runs in three of the last four Red Sox games, including a three-run blast in the fourth inning last night at Fenway Park. Unforgettable because Ortiz, who is surprisingly light on his feet for a big man, punctuates each jaunt around the infield with his index fingers pointed skyward as he crosses the plate.

Last night, the celebration also included a super-size hug for Nomar Garciaparra. Manager Grady Little figures Ortiz "might be fixing to get hot again."

And that would be good news for the Red Sox. Ortiz's homer into the Green Monster seats in left-center broke open the game against the Mariners. Boston did not need to score another run to record a 6-1 win over Seattle, stretching the Red Sox' winning streak to four.

When asked if he thought his home run changed the game, Ortiz said, "I guess it changed it a lot because we're up by six runs for the fifth. [Derek] Lowe was dealing. He was right on top of his game and every one could see that."

In Ortiz's first two at-bats, Seattle starter Ryan Franklin pitched him away. When Ortiz came to the plate in the first, he saw a sinker and grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. He saw the same pitch in the third and grounded out. He was not about to make the same mistake. When Ortiz saw another sinker on a 1-1 count in the fourth, he got all of it. As soon as he knew the shot would clear the Green Monster, Ortiz, who was miked for the game on ESPN, had a message for broadcaster Joe Morgan.

"There you go," said Ortiz. "Get that."

Garciaparra was quick to credit Ortiz for giving Lowe the type of cushion that can make a pitcher more comfortable and confident on the mound. A little room for error can be a big boost for a starter.

"It was a big home run," said Garciaparra, who went 3 for 4. "We were swinging the bats well and putting some runs on the board, but that was just a real big blow. That three-run bomb gave us that real edge and also helped D-Lowe go out there and say, `All right, I've got a little cushion here.' "

With his 19th home run, Ortiz is one shy of his career high, set last season with the Twins. He also is closing in on a career high in RBIs. Over his last four games, Ortiz has recorded seven RBIs, pushing him to 70, five short of his high mark set last season. And if you need more proof that Ortiz is heating up, he now has 15 homers in his last 42 games. The image of the hard-hitting, lefthanded batter getting hot and sending long balls to the opposite field was part of the reason the Red Sox signed him as a free agent in January.

"We knew that the guy had a lot of ability going to the opposite field, just as he has shown us throughout the season this year," said Little. "I would say the majority of his big home runs have come to the opposite field. This guy drives the ball well and he is well suited for this ballpark."

The recent success of the Red Sox, who have a chance to complete a four-game sweep of the Mariners this afternoon, does not surprise Ortiz. "This is a good team," said Ortiz. "We have good pitching and good hitting. I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that we can pull three games out of them. There are two good teams that are playing and whoever plays the best is going to be the winner."

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