Ortiz certainly looked ready to leave a brutal first three weeks behind him Friday, when he hit a grand slam and finished with five RBI as the Sox throttled the Rangers, 11-3, in front of another sellout crowd of 37,902 at Fenway Park.
Ortiz had more RBI Friday than he did in his first 16 games combined (four). His 2-for-4 effort lifted his average to .134.
"David will hit," Sox captain Jason Varitek told reporters afterward. "It's just a matter of time. He's still getting into his groove. It was a big home run for us and it allowed us to make things happen from there."
Ortiz' grand slam capped a two-out rally by the Sox against former Sox farmhand Luis Mendoza, who retired the first eight batters he faced before he unraveled. Jed Lowrie, making his first career start at shortstop, doubled before Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia walked. Ortiz, who was greeted with a standing ovation as he walked to home plate, promptly hit Mendoza's first pitch into the Green Monster seats.
That Ortiz went the other way may be the best sign he's actually snapping out of his season-long skid. Ortiz, of course, took a mental health day Sunday and promptly snapped an 0-for-17 streak in his first at-bat against the Indians' Jake Westbrook Monday. But after going 3-for-10 in two games against the Indians. Ortiz was just 1-for-10 and appeared frustrated throughout the two-game series against the Yankees.
"First of all, he gives us the lift with the opposite field home run—which, when you see guys drive the ball to the opposite field, that's good," Terry Francona told reporters afterward. "Then he lines out to left [in the sixth], then he stayed on another ball and hit the line drive to right [for an RBI single in the eighth].
"He swung at strikes and got rewarded for it too, so that's great. I'm sure that he's going to feel good. We obviously do."
The Sox turned the game into a rout with a five-run fourth capped by Pedroia's two-run homer. Earlier in the inning, Varitek had an RBI double, Lowrie contributed a sacrifice fly and Ellsbury delivered an RBI triple.
Lowrie, Pedroia and Sean Casey all had two hits. For Casey, it was his fifth two-hit effort in nine games since he replaced the injured Mike Lowell in the lineup.
Matsuzaka labored again but earned the win after he allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four in 5 1/3 innings. It marked the third time in five starts he's lasted less than six innings. Despite his perfect 4-0 record, Matsuzaka has allowed almost as many walks (17) as hits (18) in 28 2/3 innings.
"I realize that I have to go deeper into games," Matsuzaka told reporters.
Javier Lopez, David Aardsma and Mike Timlin combined to allow just one hit over the final 3 2/3 innings. The Sox continue a four-game series against the Rangers tonight, when Jon Lester is scheduled to start.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.
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