06/07/09 12:35 AM ET
Ortiz, Sox offense back brilliant Lester
Papi's homer part of a two-inning attack that nets eight runs
By Mike Petraglia / Special to MLB.com
But just as Ortiz has with his approach at the plate over the past two weeks, he showed that he can stay focused on the task at hand and finally be rewarded.
Ortiz singled sharply through the shift on the next pitch after that painful foul for the first of his two hits on the night. He added a walk and line-drive home run down the right-field line as part of his best day yet as a No. 6 hitter for the Red Sox in their 8-1 win over the Rangers on Saturday night at Fenway Park.
"Tonight he hooks around the pole, and that's certainly not the longest home run of his career, but we're always looking for positives," said manager Terry Francona, who dragged his slugger out of the dugout following the homer for a curtain call. "After he hit that ball off his foot, he got to a good pitch, and he hit it hard. We're looking for positives, and his energy tonight was good. When he rounded first, that's a good sign. When you see him running around like that, I think it creates positive energy."
Entering Saturday night, Ortiz's statistical struggles had been well documented. He was batting just .188 with a two-run homer and 24 RBIs on the season. But those who know Big Papi have seen signs in the form of line drives that indicate he's close.
"He has been [close]," said team captain Jason Varitek. "Over this past road trip, he hit two balls hard a game and did not necessarily get a hit from it. Results don't always tell the process of what's going on."
"He's tried this, he's tried that," added Jason Bay. "I think you just get a couple of good breaks here and there, and it helps you relax a little bit more. He seems to me, anyway, a little bit more comfortable. It's a feel thing. We haven't seen the best, but over the last three or four days, the at-bats have been great, and he's a big part of our offense."
Ortiz never lost the faith that good swings producing good contact would eventually produce good results.
"That's how you getting back to hitting balls and start hitting well, put a good swing on a ball," Ortiz said. "Even though you don't get the good luck, it will come."
As for that homer off Kris Benson in the sixth, Ortiz said that a little body English never hurt.
"I was leaning, leaning heavy to one side," he admitted. "But I hit the ball good, real good. I can feel it coming."
There's something else he feels coming, a sore right foot.
"I'll feel it tomorrow," he said.
The other part of Saturday's game that shouldn't be overlooked is how the Red Sox offense put seven runs on the board between the fifth and sixth innings, blowing open a 1-0 game and allowing the team to focus on playing even harder behind Jon Lester, who was perfect through 6 1/3 innings.
"It was huge, especially at 1-0, it was looking at one point like it might be like that for a while the way [Texas starter Derek] Holland was pitching," Bay said. "You go out there, get a few runs, try to give Jonny a little breathing room and kind of give the defense a little breathing room, too.
"When a guy's throwing like that, you want to do everything you can to help him out, but at the same time, if it's a close game, there are certain things, as far as getting guys off base, you should do. It gives you the luxury of doing some things that in a close game you shouldn't."
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.