Ortiz excels at small ball
His infield single lifts Sox over struggling Twins
MINNEAPOLIS - David Ortiz hit a home run Monday that traveled 438 feet before landing in the second deck at Target Field, sending a fan home with an unexpected souvenir.
The ball he hit in the seventh inning last night went about 400 feet less. But it got the job done for the Red Sox.
Ortiz’s little infield single was the difference as Boston stayed hot with a 4-3 victory against the Twins before a sellout crowd of 39,974.
The Sox won their fourth straight on a night that featured a numbing 14 walks. They lead the division by 2 1/2 games over the Yankees, who have dropped three in a row.
The Twins have lost six straight. The Sox will have Jon Lester on the mound tonight as they try for the sweep.
It was 3-3 in the seventh inning when Ortiz came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out to face Phil Dumatrait, a lefthanded reliever who once upon a time was a first-round draft pick of the Sox.
Ortiz hit a slider on the dirt in front of the plate, the ball rolling not even halfway up the line. Dumatrait tried to pick up the ball with his bare hand but instead stumbled and fell.
Dustin Pedroia scored from third and Ortiz came away with an infield single.
“We knew that squeeze would work at some point,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Take it when you can get ’em.’’
Ortiz’s cursed to himself as the ball left his bat.
“You hit a ball to the pitcher like that, he’s got to chase and you’ve got to run and you’ve got a guy coming in,’’ Ortiz said. “There’s a lot of things going on at the same time.’’
Erik Bedard went five solid innings in his second start for the Sox, leaving with a 3-2 lead.
Bedard needed 37 pitches to get through the first inning thanks in part to umpire Tim McClellan, whose strike zone was tighter than Bartolo Colon’s jersey.
Leadoff hitter Ben Revere walked on five pitches and took third on a hit-and-run single by Joe Mauer. Michael Cuddyer followed with a sacrifice fly to center.
Bedard then walked Jason Kubel and Jim Thome to load the bases. He struck out Danny Valencia for the second out but walked Delmon Young to force in a run. Three of the pitches to Young were borderline strikes.
An overmatched Tsuyoshi Nishioka struck out to end the inning.
“The pitches could have went both ways. Just lack of control in the first,’’ Bedard said. “I tried to battle and tried to limit the damage . . . It could have been real worse. Tried to get a little satisfaction of it. You have to bear down in those situations. If you let it get out of hand the score could have been 6-0.’’
Bedard sailed through his remaining four innings, allowing just two singles. He threw 90 pitches, 20 more than his previous start as he continued to build up arm strength following a month-long stay on the disabled list.
Bedard finished strong, retiring the last seven batters he faced, three by strikeout. After the first inning, he set down 12 of 14.
“Physically, I feel fine,’’ Bedard said. “I’ll probably be on a regular pitch count now.’’
The Red Sox offense arrived in the fifth inning against Francisco Liriano when Jason Varitek drew a walk before Darnell McDonald drilled a slider deep into the stands in left field for his fourth home run.
“That was fun,’’ said McDonald, who called on Ortiz to add him to the Home Run Derby next season.
The Sox took a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Jed Lowrie and Carl Crawford drew one-out walks off Liriano before Varitek singled to left field. Lowrie scored but Crawford was thrown out going to third as he anticipated the throw going through to the plate.
Matt Albers took over for Bedard in the sixth and continued a recent series of shaky outings.
Valencia singled and scored on a two-out double to right field by Nishioka, the ball just missing going into the stands. Reliable all season, Albers has allowed three runs on six hits and three walks in his last 5 2/3 innings.
Once the Sox had the lead, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon got the final seven outs.
Papelbon, pitching for the third night in a row, retired the side in order on seven pitches for his 26th save in 27 chances. He has thrown 11 consecutive scoreless innings, giving up two hits without a walk and striking out 12.
It was the 32d time the Sox have come from behind to win. It also was the 10th time since July 1 they have come back from a deficit of two or more runs to win.
The Sox have the best road record in the majors at 35-21 despite losing their first seven games away from Fenway Park.
“Is that right?’’ Ortiz said. “We’re the Sox. Not Apple Sox. We ain’t no Barbeque Sox. We’re the Red Sox.’’
Figure that out yourself. These days, everything makes sense for this team.