Shutout win makes Sox 6-0 against the Yankees
If the euphoria continues every time David Ortiz lofts a ball out of Fenway Park, the man is going to have one tired arm, swinging his helmet around at a crowd that seemingly can't get enough. Ortiz made it 3 for 3 last night, with perhaps his best swing and best at-bat of the season, taking a third curtain call on his third home run of 2009.
His manager looked on, his teammates milling around the dugout, as Ortiz popped out to wave at a crowd that wants him to succeed. They saw it last night, as he came back from two strikes down to even the count, blasting a pitch to straightaway center field, where it dropped into the stands for a legitimate smash-bag homer.
"That's probably the best swing he's taken," manager Terry Francona said. "I thought the other day in Detroit, he hit a ball that was an out to center field, similar swing. And again on a night when the ball's not going to carry, especially to center field, he hit it through whatever that stuff was. That was a good swing.
"I hope he gets 40 curtain calls."
It was all that Josh Beckett and the Red Sox would need. Against A.J. Burnett, they extended their streak to six straight wins against the Yankees - every game the teams have played in 2009. And with the 7-0 win, the Sox also tied the Yankees for first place in the American League East.
The Yankees managed just two hits in front of a quite happy (if chilled) crowd of 37,883. Give an assist on the first of those hits - by Robinson Cano in the fourth, the only hit off Beckett - to the weather. And the grounds crew, if you ask Dustin Pedroia.
"I'm chalking that one up to our grounds crew guy dumping the tarp right behind second base," Pedroia said, laughing. "I couldn't really get a grip on the ball. Everything was wet. I got to it, and I slid about 8 feet. That didn't really help me out."
Francona said, "On a dry day, he makes that play."
Beckett would not allow another hit over his six innings and 93 pitches, continuing a stretch in which the ace has been just that. He outdueled his former Marlins teammate, outwitted the Yankees hitters, and recorded his fifth straight outstanding start.
He came into the game having allowed only three earned runs in his last four starts. He allowed no runs and just that single hit, striking out eight, and walking only two last night.
"Early in the game, he used all his pitches and we scored and then that allowed him to find his two-seamer," said Francona. "Early on that one, the front-door to lefties, wasn't there real consistently. But he used all his pitches and didn't let them sit on anything. He stayed out of the middle. Then as we got into about the third or fourth inning, he found that two-seamer. Really did a good job."
The last matchup between these starters ended in a manner that was difficult to anticipate. In a 16-11 April slugfest won by the Sox, neither pitcher lasted past the fifth. That game, in which the starters allowed eight runs each, was an aberration, given their stuff, their success, their ability.
That was why Francona said before last night's game, "If you're a fan, this is going to be a fun game to come watch. Got two of the better arms in the game. I don't know that you go into this game thinking it's going to be 10-9. 'Cause I said that, it probably will."
He was right, on one count. Burnett lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on five hits and five walks. Not only did he allow the homer to Ortiz, but he allowed a two-run double to J.D. Drew in the second. Burnett also gave up an RBI double to Nick Green, the hit knocking the starter out of the game. Green later punctuated the win with his second homer of the season, a solo shot in the seventh.
But as well-hit as Green's homer was, it was hardly the one likely to get the ink and the air time and the excitement of Ortiz's.
"He stayed back, he stayed on it, he stayed through it," said Francona. "Which, I think, is a real good sign."
And while he's still below the Mendoza Line, at .198, Ortiz has a seven-game hitting streak. He has gone 8 for 29 in that time, including two homers in his last three games. A reticent Ortiz gave one-word and two-word answers after the game, seemingly not interested in discussing his home run or his streak. He left his teammates to expand upon his importance and his hits.
"You're just rooting for him so hard," said Mike Lowell. "I don't think you like to see anyone go through tough times, especially someone who we've leaned on so much in the past few years. He's not going to jump up to .250 overnight. It's going to be a process."
"He's been big for us," Pedroia said. "He's swung the bat well the last five, six, seven games. He's got to keep it going. Every game, if he swings the bat well, is a positive. You've got to build on it.
"That was a great swing. We all know it's there. It's just a matter of keeping it going and believing in yourself."