After being pressed into somewhat regular duty when the starters began to fall left and right, Hall has proved to be more than just a guy able to play several positions. He has quietly morphed into one of the Red Sox' most dangerous bats.
Quiet, that is, until Wednesday in Toronto.
Hall had his first two-homer game since April 4, 2008, and added an RBI single in Boston's 10-1 rout of the Blue Jays. The effort spearheaded a four-home run barrage for the Red Sox, now just three-and-a-half games out of the wild-card race.
"They actually threw me the same pitch two times in a row," Hall said, perhaps a bit incredulous that Toronto would take his power stroke so lightly.
Before you chuckle, consider some of the numbers
Hall, who ranks third on the team in home runs per at-bats (one every 15.67 at-bats, better than Hank Aaron's career mark!), has now hit nine home runs in his last 22 starts and seven in his last 16 games overall. He is batting .342 (13-for-38) in his last 12 games and .385 (10-for-26) vs. the Blue Jays in 2010.
"If you make a mistake, he has the ability to hit it a long way," manager Terry Francona said. "He's a strong kid. We've played him all over the place and he's given us — a lot of times — a lot of big lift. To have that amount of home runs in his at-bats and playing part-time, that's really helped us."
Francona has shuffled Hall between second base and left field in the past week or so to make sure he stays in the lineup. He was in left field in the series opener, going hitless in three at-bats, before returning to his "customary" second base on Wednesday and going off on Toronto.
The 30-year-old Hall, who slugged 35 homers in 2006, crushed No. 14 on the season to snap a 1-1 tie in the second. It proved to be the last run the Red Sox would need, but Hall's night was just getting started.
A two-run homer, again off Toronto starter Shaun Marcum, made it 4-1 in the fourth, and his RBI single in the fifth put Boston on top 9-1. Hall's four RBIs and home runs by J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre prompted Francona to slowly empty the bench, taking several position players out one-by-one in a rare cakewalk.
"We needed a game where we can, not take a deep breath, but just spread it out a little bit," said Francona, whose team had not won a game by more than four runs in more than a month.
The offensive showing somewhat overshadowed eight outstanding innings by Clay Buchholz, currently the AL leader with a 2.49 ERA. On a night on which he did everything else, including turning a spectacular double play to end the fourth, Hall found time to give his starter some credit.
"He made good pitches all night long," Hall said. "Whenever he got in a bad situation, he was able to make a pitch to get an out or obviously get a strikeout. He's been pitching this way all year long and we feel like he's one of the better pitchers in this league."
Barring anything unforeseen, Dustin Pedroia will return to full-time duty at second base next week. It will be up to Francona to make sure Hall gets his at-bats. Perhaps splitting time in left field with rookie Ryan Kalish and giving others a day off at the six different positions he has played this year (seven if you include an appearance out of the bullpen in May) will give Hall a handful of starts each week.
Everyone knows he has the flexibility. In case anyone was still in the dark about his power, they now know about that, too.
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