Long a Tormenter of the Yankees, Ortiz Adds Yet Another Dagger

New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann, left, watches Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz follow through on a third-inning, three-run, home run off New York Yankees starting pitcher Chase Whitley in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, June 29.
New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann, left, watches Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz follow through on a third-inning, three-run, home run off New York Yankees starting pitcher Chase Whitley in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, June 29. –Kathy Willens/AP

NEW YORK — In the past decade of the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry, few things have endured quite like David Ortiz, the hulking Boston slugger who, even at age 38 and in his 18th major league season, continues to stir up some of his most inimitable qualities against his fiercest rivals.

Another timeless presence, of course, is Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who did his best to pester the Red Sox with vintage line drives on Sunday, a few days after turning 40. But Ortiz’s mark in this game would be greater.

His three-run home run in the third inning was the 450th homer of his career. For Yankees fans, it may have felt like No. 450 in the Bronx alone. No player, perhaps in any generation, has terrorized Yankees pitching with such coldblooded indefatigability.

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Ortiz’s detonation to right-center field off Chase Whitley was the Red Sox’ biggest hit of the night, but there wound up being plenty more. Boston cruised, 8-5, to win its first series on the road in June.

“It’s a good place for a power hitter,’’ Ortiz said with a playful grin, referring to Yankee Stadium.

Home runs to right field were a topic of considerable discussion even before Sunday’s game. Yankee Stadium was still buzzing about Mike Napoli’s go-ahead homer against Masahiro Tanaka in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 2-1 Boston win.

Cameras caught Napoli yelling, “What an idiot’’ to his teammates as he ran into the dugout, apparently referring to Tanaka’s decision to throw a two-strike fastball instead of one of his breaking pitches. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not take issue with Napoli’s comments to his teammates, words that had not been intended for public consumption.

“It was in the heat of the moment,’’ Girardi said, adding: “I haven’t seen anything in Mike Napoli that he’s a guy that shows people up or degrades people. I haven’t seen that from him. So I don’t make too much of it.’’

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Ortiz did not need to say anything after blasting Whitley’s 0-1 fastball deep into the bleachers, giving the Red Sox a 4-0 lead in the third. He simply flipped his bat into the air and began a stroll around the bases.

After a single by Napoli, Whitley had allowed seven hits in two and two-thirds innings, and it was evident that none of his pitches were working. The damage might have been even worse had Boston not grounded into inning-ending double plays in the first and the second.

“It makes it tough to navigate through an order when you’re not ahead of people and you’re behind in the count and giving them extra base runners,’’ Girardi said. “It usually leads to damage.’’

The Yankees began to chip away in the third inning. Ichiro Suzuki reached on an error, and Jeter drove him in with a single. Mark Teixeira then led off the fourth with his 15th homer of the season.

Carlos Beltran added a solo homer two batters later, cutting the deficit to 4-3.

But after allowing a leadoff walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fifth, Whitley was finished. Reliever Shawn Kelley entered and faced three batters without recording an out, walking two of them and allowing a two-run single by Dustin Pedroia.

The Yankees again made some noise in the bottom of the inning against John Lackey, who allowed five runs (four earned) and six hits in five innings. Brett Gardner drove in a run with a double, and Jacoby Ellsbury’s run-scoring groundout cut Boston’s lead to 7-5.

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The Red Sox loaded the bases again with no outs in the sixth, however, prompting Girardi to bring in his hard-throwing setup man, Dellin Betances. He worked his way out of the jam, but not before Pedroia hit a sacrifice fly for his third run batted in of the night.

The Red Sox had not scored eight runs in a game in almost three weeks. It was more than they had accumulated in the previous three games combined.

“They were putting up good at-bats,’’ Beltran said. “We did that, too, but they were better than us.’’

The Yankees, who on Friday opened a stretch of 17 consecutive games before the All-Star break, have some reason to worry about Whitley, a rookie who was a revelation in his first seven starts. In his last two, both losses, Whitley has allowed 19 hits and 13 runs in seven and a third innings.

“I felt OK; they hit mistakes and they hit some decent pitches,’’ Whitley said. “I’ve just got to keep working and getting better.’’

His pitches hung up on Sunday, and the Red Sox, despite their recent offensive struggles, could feast on the results. Certainly Ortiz, in this ballpark, has done enough to warrant more delicacy around the strike zone.

c.2014 New York Times News Service