ATLANTA--It was one of those just-between-slugger moments: David Ortiz huddling with Barry Bonds when the Giants visited Fenway Park last weekend.
"One of the things he told me," Ortiz said, "is that once you hit 50 home runs, forget about it. You're not going to see any pitches the next year."
On this date a year ago, Ortiz had 20 home runs. He would have six more by the end of the month, en route to breaking Jimmie Foxx's club record with 54, two more than Double-X.
Last night, when he connected off Braves starter Tim Hudson with an opposite-field home run in the fourth inning, which gave Josh Beckett (10-1) a lead he would not relinquish in a 4-0 win over the Braves, it was Ortiz's 12th of the season. He has hit home runs in back-to-back games just once this season, back in April against the Angels. He has had only one two-homer game, April 8 in Texas.
"That's just the way it is going to be," Ortiz said. "The same thing happened with Barry. Barry doesn't miss pitches."
Ortiz, restored to the starting lineup after pinch hitting in Monday's 9-4 loss, has pretty much resigned himself to this new world order, though he still harbors hopes that when Manny Ramírez goes on a power tear, and the weather warms up, his selection of pitches to pound into oblivion will improve.
"I don't get to go deep much," he cracked after the game, before hustling to catch a bus that he claimed was about to leave him behind.
His was the only ball to leave the premises, on a night that Beckett became the American League's second 10-game winner by limiting the Braves to a double and three singles before the rains came, a 48-minute delay ending his outing after six innings. He did not leave before another how-can-I-top-myself-this-time catch by center fielder Coco Crisp, who took extra bases away from Hudson by going airborne after a long sprint in the fifth.
"Oh man," Beckett said. "I've told him this before, that that was the greatest catch I've ever had behind me. I told him that tonight. I think that's about three or four times I've told him that. I guess I've got to go back and look at all of 'em and figure out which one is the greatest catch.
"I try to explain it to some of the other guys. It's so much different, seeing that from my angle and with my adrenaline. Because I'm extremely into that play. Whenever you see somebody go after a ball like that, he's playing in the other gap -- right away you think there's no way, then he starts closing the distance and leaves his feet, it's an unbelievable catch.
The Sox picked up a game on the Yankees, 3-1 losers in Colorado, to widen their lead to nine games in the American League East. They also pinned another defeat on Hudson, maybe the best pitcher who can't figure out how to beat the Sox. Hudson, who used to pitch in Oakland, did better last night than in most of his starts against the Sox, but was hurt by an RBI double by his opposite number, Beckett, which came in a two-run fifth.
Alex Cora, playing shortstop in place of the benched Julio Lugo, tripled to center when Andruw Jones was unable to make a shoestring catch, and scored when Beckett lined a double into the gap in left-center. A single by Dustin Pedroia brought home Beckett to make it 3-0.
In the sixth, Jason Varitek doubled and Crisp singled him to third, knocking out Hudson. Cora's sacrifice fly made it 4-0.
Hudson has lost his last six starts to the Sox, his 0-6 record complemented by a 9.00 ERA. They roughed him up worse in Boston May 20 (8 H, 6 R, 4 2/3 IP), and his overall record against the Sox is now 3-9, with a 6.26 ERA. Go figure. Against the rest of the world, Hudson is 122-56, a winning percentage of .685.
"It's obviously a matchup where their hitters have done pretty well against me," Hudson said. "But check their record. They're not bad. That's a pretty good team."
Beckett, rebounding from his first loss of the season last Thursday against the Rockies, gave up just four hits, walking two and striking out three, against a team he saw regularly when he was in the National League East with the Marlins.
Beckett joined John Lackey of the Angels as the AL's only 10-game winners. His 16 wins last season were a career high. When asked if he entertained thoughts of winning 20, he said, "I'm looking at getting No. 11."
When the Braves batted in the seventh, Kyle Snyder was pitching for the Sox. Snyder worked a 1-2-3 seventh, dropping a beautiful breaking ball for a third strike on pinch hitter Pete Orr for the final out.
But when Kelly Johnson led off with a squibber into no-man's land near first base for an infield hit, Francona went to his bullpen again -- for Hideki Okajima, fresh from a night off after three straight appearances.
Okajima walked pinch hitter Matt Diaz on five pitches, then fell behind, 2-and-0, to Yunel Escobar, who had replaced Edgar Renteria because Renteria's back stiffened during the rain delay. Okajima came back with two called strikes, then induced Escobar to ground sharply to Kevin Youkilis, playing third with Mike Lowell sitting on another no-DH day. Youkilis started a 5-4-3 double play, with Pedroia making a nice turn despite a hard takeout slide by Diaz.
Another ground ball to third and Okajima was out of the inning, though surprisingly, he required no explanation of what all the chanting was about, even though the "tomahawk chop" doesn't exactly get much play in Kyoto, Okajima's hometown.
"I explained it to him yesterday," said his translator, Jeff Yamaguchi. "He was asking me about it. He also said that big drum in center field was very loud."
Last night, Yamaguchi said, was also the first time he could recall Okajima coming into the clubhouse after he pitched to review video of what he'd just done, evidently concerned about walking Diaz. "He wanted to make sure everything was OK in his delivery," Yamaguchi said.
Whatever problems he might have encountered, in the end it was all A-OK.
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.