Hurting put on by Ortiz
His slam is painful for Angels to watch
The big man has some big hurts, such that he may need to be put back together again this winter with baling wire, staples, and as much surgical tape as Red Sox doctor Thomas Gill keeps in his medicine cabinet.
But David Ortiz showed no signs of falling apart last night. On the contrary, the slugger hit a ball as hard as he has all season for a go-ahead grand slam in last night's 10-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, his second home run in three games and the kind of hit Curt Schilling was hoping to see more often.
"It was a no-doubter," said Schilling, who came away with his first win since June 7 after Ortiz's slam climaxed a six-run, fifth-inning rally from a 5-0 deficit against Angels starter Jered Weaver, who glared at Ortiz as he circled the bases after lingering to admire the blast deep into the right-field grandstand.
"You knew it as soon as you heard it," Schilling said. "[Friday], I said something to him when he came down into the dugout after he hit that ball [a two-run double in Game 2 of the doubleheader], I said, 'It's time for you to start carrying us a little bit.' And he had the swagger about him yesterday that said, 'OK, I want to.' And that's nice."
Ortiz acknowledged that Schilling had delivered that message, but said the pitcher might need to put a few other people on notice as well.
"He came to me and told me that," Ortiz said, "but he'd better talk to the pitchers out there, too."
The slam was the seventh of Ortiz's career, and his 21st home run of the season, after he'd moaned earlier in the week that he wasn't sure he'd even reach 20. Last night, he again ran through his litany of reasons why the home runs have been harder to come by: pitchers who would sooner set their hair on fire than throw him a pitch to hit, sea breezes that conspire to knock down his mightiest blasts, a home ballpark designed to frustrate the boppers who play there on a nightly basis.
"Somebody told me the other day, a writer, that they're making the ball differently this season, that's why home runs are down," Ortiz said. "I didn't say anything, but it got me thinking."
But what about the legendary red seat in the right-field bleachers marking the spot where Ted Williams hit Fenway's longest home run?
"Look at the ball I hit tonight," Ortiz said, laughing. "That was 25 rows away from the red seat. You think anybody can hit a ball harder than that? They can all come and kiss my [expletive]."
Just as the Sox needed a pick-me-up from Ortiz to stay five games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East, they needed similar reassurance from the bullpen that it, too, will remain intact down the stretch.
The Eric Gagné factor was not in play last night; the beleaguered Gagné having the night off after blowing Friday's second game. Instead, Terry Francona turned to the arms and the men who had been so instrumental in the pen's success for much of the summer.
And Mike Timlin, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon did not disappoint. Timlin survived a perilous seventh, which began with a bunt single by Reggie Willits and ended with Coco Crisp hauling down Vladimir Guerrero's blast in front of the 420-foot sign in center. Timlin has been scored upon just once in his last 18 appearances, posting a 0.77 ERA.
"If it's possible to do things under the radar in Boston," Schilling said, "he has under the radar become one of the most dominating setup men in the game."
Okajima dodged a scary eighth, one in which Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews both sent Crisp to the track, and Casey Kotchman had Crisp in full-sprint mode to run down his liner. Crisp caught eight balls in all, five in a row in the seventh and eighth.
"I thought Coco played an outstanding game," Francona said. "I mean, he was off on almost the pitch and covered a lot of ground. Not only did he close on balls, but he was moving when they were going up. That was exciting to see."
And Papelbon took care of the ninth, the pressure valve eased when the Sox scored four times in the bottom of the eighth. Two of those runs came home on a double by Manny Ramírez, who had struck out in each of his first four at-bats. Jason Varitek singled home a third run and Greg Jones's wild pitch accounted for the other.
Papelbon benefited from a sweet diving stop by Alex Cora to retire second baseman Macier Izturis, struck out pinch hitter Erick Aybar for the second out -- that's 18 of his last 19 appearances with at least one punchout -- then whiffed Willits to end it.
The Sox are now 4-2 on this homestand, which ends this afternoon with Julian Tavarez on the hill. With Tavarez having thrown just 1 2/3 innings since Aug. 8, Francona said there was a strong likelihood he would need Manny Delcarmen and Kyle Snyder today, which is why he elected to use Papelbon in the ninth, even with a five-run lead.
"Under different circumstances, we could get Delcarmen up or Snydes up in a hurry, but since we had Paps up and hot, he's not available tomorrow so we'll keep as many fresh arms as we can," Francona said. "I think you have to go deeper than the score. Once he's hot, because of what he did [Friday], we're going to lose him anyway, we might as well pitch him."
Crisp had come to the ballpark dressed mostly in green -- green designer baseball cap, green T-shirt, green belt, green shoes ("My psychic told me that if I wore green, it would be good luck," Crisp told a clubhouse visitor before the game).
In any color, Schilling's luck was anything but good. The Angels scored a first-inning run after Kevin Youkilis, playing third base, ducked the shattered remnants of Guerrero's bat while the ball scooted past for a hit. "I don't think I would have stood there either," Francona said. "You can get an out and get the end of the bat in your head. That's not going to help."
Orlando Cabrera, who was aboard on a double, took third, and scored on a force play.
In the second, Willits hit a pitch that was below his shoelaces into center field for a run-scoring single, then scored ahead of Chone Figgins's home run into the lower right-field grandstand, where an indifferent spectator caught the ball before it could land in the outstretched glove of J.D. Drew ("Rando would have had it," cracked Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, one of many new fans of the Walpole Little League center fielder.)
And in the fifth, Guerrero hit a well-placed splitter into the Monster seats to give the Angels a 5-0 lead.
But in the bottom of the inning, fortunes turned the Sox' way, and Crisp was in the middle of it. This time, a splintered bat worked in their favor, Eric Hinske reaching on a broken-bat single when Weaver was distracted by flying wood and failed to cover first base on Hinske's roller to first. Crisp followed with a double off the low bullpen wall, Hinske stopping at third.
Then, another break: Cora was hit in the foot by an 0-and-2 pitch to load the bases. Hot-hitting Julio Lugo (8 for 19 on the homestand) followed with a single to center for two runs, and it was 5-2. Youkilis, mired in a 3-for-26 slump at the start of the night, smoked another single to reload the bases. Up came Ortiz, whose aching shoulder and throbbing knee were forgotten the moment he connected.
"That was well-struck," Francona said. "The timing wasn't bad either."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.