Barrage of Boston blasts sinks Jays
Sox hit five homers, including Papi's first and two by Varitek
BOSTON -- The Boston bats combined to create a power-packed special that thrilled a crowd of 38,099 at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.
There were five home runs, including the first of 2009 by David Ortiz and a pair from Jason Varitek. Four of those blasts came in the bottom of the fifth inning, tying a franchise record on a night the Red Sox downed the Blue Jays, 8-3.
"It started with David," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay, who cranked his team-leading 12th homer during that furious fifth. "When the ball went up, everybody in the dugout was screaming for it to get out. I think it's genuine caring for a teammate. He's been through a lot this year, and it was like, 'Hey, he needed that.'
"It's something to get excited about. Whether we fed off that, I don't know. It was nice to get out in front early and get out to a lead for the first time in a while."
The Red Sox have hit four homers in an inning 11 times in their history, most recently on April 22, 2007, when they hit four in succession against Chase Wright of the Yankees.
In particular, the night belonged to Ortiz, who ended a 149-at-bat homerless drought that stretched to Sept. 22, 2008.
"I got that big old monkey off my back, you know?" Ortiz said. "You have to understand, sometimes, that's all it takes, to have a good at-bat and get a big hit and start clicking."
But this night wasn't just about swinging for the fences or the resurgence of a beloved player.
It was also about Brad Penny taking a shutout into the seventh and ultimately turning in his best start in a Red Sox uniform. The big righty went 6 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits and two runs.
"I think more importantly, Brad gave us a quality start once again," said Varitek. "We're going to live more on that [than offense]."
There was also what seemed like an acre or two of ground covered by speedy center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who set a franchise record in the sixth inning by hauling in his 11th putout of the night, and then tied a Major League record by ending the game with his 12th putout.
"Good thing he stretched," quipped Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He had a lot going on."
Only two previous times in Major League history had an outfielder made 12 putouts in a nine-inning game, and both happened in Boston. Earl Clark of the Boston Braves did it on May 10, 1929, against the Reds, and Minnesota's Lyman Bostock did it against the Red Sox on May 25, 1977.
"I got off to a busy start," said Ellsbury. "It didn't seem like that many. Just got quite a few from the get-go. Brad was getting a lot of flyball action, and I was tracking them down."
There was also the return of cleanup man Kevin Youkilis from the disabled list, and all the first baseman did was go 3-for-5 to raise his average to .404.
By taking two of the first three games in this series with the American League East-leading Jays, the Sox are just 1 1/2 games back in the division.
"They've obviously played well," said Bay. "I don't think we're really worried about first place [or] last place. That plays a little more in August and September. Right now, we hadn't seen them yet, which is weird. But at the same time, I don't think anyone is going home that much more satisfied because it's a first-place team. A win is a win. We'll take it."
Varitek gave the Red Sox an early jolt, hammering a solo homer over the Monster to lead off the third. Boston made it 2-0 later in the inning when Julio Lugo scored on a double-play grounder by Dustin Pedroia.
"[Varitek] swung the bat great," Francona said. "Against left-handers, he's always going to be big. Because of his right-handed presence, it can make our lineup a lot thicker."
Varitek also started the fireworks in that memorable fifth by smoking a solo shot to center against Jays starter Brett Cecil. It was Varitek's first multi-homer game since Aug. 16, 2005. The captain now has seven homers on the year after hitting 13 all of last season.
"I'm not going to really talk too much about my hitting," Varitek said. "I just go out and try to have consistent at-bats and try to hit the ball hard. As long as we're at the top of our division and we have a chance to win, that's the important part. Still, my most importance comes with what I wear back there and I understand that."
Ortiz is the opposite. He doesn't play defense, so his impact is all with his bat, which has made his start all the more frustrating. But that could be on the verge of changing. With one out and Pedroia on second, Ortiz turned on a 1-1 pitch and clocked it over the fence in center for a two-run homer.
"I'm feeling good," Ortiz said. "Like I said before, that's the kind of game that gets you going. The biggest thing about the whole situation was the fans, man. They've been cheering for me every at-bat, even when you don't get it done, and next time you come in, it's the same thing. That means a lot."
The Red Sox were every bit as excited as their fans.
"You could see the sheer joy in the dugout," said Francona. "We were all blowing on it; we wanted it to go out."
Later in the inning, Bay unloaded for a rocket that sailed over the Monster and on to Lansdowne Street. Mike Lowell made it back-to-back shots, hitting one into the Monster seats.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.