Second heater showed Ortiz to be fast learner
When he came to the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins, David Ortiz narrowly missed on the first pitch he saw from reliever Chris Hatcher, fouling off a 94-mile-per-hour fastball.
But when Hatcher came back with a 96-m.p.h. four-seamer that seemed to run over middle of the plate, Ortiz made certain he did not miss a second time.
Although he struck out twice, the Red Sox designated hitter delivered the crowning blow of the 15-5 rout by clobbering Hatcher’s 0-and-1 pitch for his 11th career grand slam.
“It was just two pitches - fastball,’’ Ortiz said of his fourth-inning at-bat, which triggered a six-run eruption that put the game out of reach. It resulted in his 396th homer, tying him with Joe Carter for 52d on the all-time list.
“I swung and hit it out of the park,’’ Ortiz said.
Was he looking for it? “Always,’’ he said. “What am I going to look for? A breaking ball?’’
Still, there seemed to be no coincidence that on the first day of summer, one in which the game-time temperature was 96 degrees, Ortiz heated things up for the Sox, who scored a season-high 15 runs on 16 hits, including four home runs.
Described by Sox manager Bobby Valentine at one point during the season as the “star of stars,’’ Ortiz did little to diminish his brilliance as the club’s supernova. Over his last 10 games, Ortiz has hit .394 (13 for 33) with five home runs - including three in his last three games - and 12 RBIs.
“Obviously, if we were in first place, he’d be the guy that everybody would be talking about because he’s been so consistently excellent the entire year,’’ Valentine said. “It’s hard to be excellent and it’s hard to have a consistency about you for 60-plus games. But day in and day out, he’s brought it. And his speed was a little factor, too.’’
Valentine referred to the Wall double Cody Ross hit in the third off Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. It came after Miami manager Ozzie Guillen feigned as though he was going to have Nolasco pitch to Ortiz with two men aboard, but then changed his mind and had Ortiz intentionally walked after seeing two pitches.
“When I stepped into the box I expected them to intentionally walk me,’’ Ortiz said. “Then [Joey] Cora [Miami’s bench coach] gave me a sign like, ‘No, we’re going to pitch to you,’ so I was like, ‘Oh, OK, we’ll see how that goes.’ And they threw me the first two pitches for balls and then they ended up intentionally walking me and I just gave them a look like, ‘We should have just saved some time.’ ’’
Ortiz made the Marlins pay on the basepaths when he scored from first on Ross’s three-run double, which eluded left fielder Logan Morrison. Ortiz built up such a head of steam rounding second, he nearly caught up to Ryan Kalish as he was rounding third.
“He made such a good read that he was right on my tail,’’ Kalish said.
Daniel Nava, who went 4 for 5, turned and saw Morrison draw a bead on his target with his throw to the plate and signaled for Ortiz to slide.
“Kalish and I were both trying to get his attention to let him know to get down,’’ Nava said. “Because if he’s going to be busting his butt from first all the way home, we want to make sure he scores to make it worth it.’’
In the fourth, an air of anticipation filled the Fenway Park crowd of 37,326 when Ortiz came to the plate with the bases loaded. This time, Guillen was left with no choice but to pitch to Ortiz.
“I’m always calling homers for him, because it seems like every time he gets up there, he’s hitting the ball far,’’ said Mike Aviles. “It was one of those deals where if he gets up with three men on base, you kind of have to throw him a pitch to hit.’’
As he waited in the on-deck circle, Ross had other ideas.
“I was hoping they were going to intentionally walk him again,’’ Ross said, smiling. “He got a real good pitch to hit and he did what he’s done nearly 400 times now. It’s just a treat to be able to sit in the on-deck circle and watch it happen. For me, he’s a Hall of Famer, and to see him come through like that, it’s huge for us as a team, and the fans obviously love it, too.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.