When Red Sox manager Terry Francona filled out his lineup card Monday night in preparation for a series opener with the Tampa Bay Rays, he had four players in the heart of his order that had combined for nearly 21,000 at-bats in almost 6,000 major league games.
The next five hitters in the lineup collectively had a grand total of 654 at-bats in 225 career games.
In a partnership that should engender a fleet of boy scouts to help their elders cross the street, the old and young Red Sox teamed up Monday night in an offensive showing, the likes of which the club had not seen in almost two months.
The 22-year-old Ryan Kalish had a grand slam and two stolen bases and David Ortiz, 12 years his senior, had a home run and three RBIs as part of a 12-5 rout of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Chipping in among the younger generation was 27-year-old rookie Daniel Nava, who led off for the second time in his career and scored twice. Jed Lowrie, 26, had an RBI and a run scored. Yamaico Navarro, 22, had his second career RBI on a sacrifice fly. Lars Anderson, making his major league debut at the age of 22, was hitless in four at-bats but did set up Navarro’s RBI with a productive out and played a flawless first base.
"We have a lot of guys, young guys coming in," Ortiz said. "We have a lot of talent. It’s good to watch them do their thing."
In addition to Ortiz, the old guard saw J.D. Drew, Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre combine for four hits, four walks, three RBIs and five runs scored.
Most of the damage was done early.
Ortiz and Beltre hit back-to-back homers in a three-run first inning. Kalish began the second with a single and his first steal of the night. Both he and Nava scored on Martinez’s two-run single later in the inning and Ortiz capped another three-run burst with a double off the Green Monster to score Drew.
Nava and Drew singled to start the fourth. With two outs, Beltre was intentionally walked by reliever Andy Sonnanstine, who then threw four straight balls to Lowrie to force in a run. Kalish stepped in, worked a 3-1 count and then unloaded on a fat cutter, crushing the ball over the Tampa Bay bullpen for an 11-2 lead.
"Ah, man, what a good swing," Francona said of Kalish’s second grand slam in 20 days.
While the veterans had done plenty to help Boston open it up, Kalish took center stage on that swing. And it was he who walked in the seventh, stole second, moved to third on Anderson’s grounder and then came in on Navarro’s long drive to center.
"I’m not surprised at all," Anderson said of his teammate at three different levels this year. "That guy is one of the most dynamic players I’ve seen as far as all the tools and just being together. It’s pretty fun to watch."
Kalish, for his part, glanced around the Red Sox’ clubhouse postgame and saw what the team had become. There was a collection of temporary lockers in place for the September call-ups, including Anderson, Navarro and outfielder Josh Reddick. There were the stations that guys like Ortiz and Drew have filled for years.
Content in a rare easy win, he reflected on the blend of young and old.
"I love it. It just shows what everybody’s been doing," he said. "Everyone’s really working hard. A couple of my really good friends are here. Other guys I’ve gotten to know playing with them. It’s really, really cool."
There will be more lineups like this going forward. The elders are among the only healthy regulars remaining and will be in there as long as there is a mathematical opportunity to sneak into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the youngsters are filling voids vacated by injured veterans and will continue to steal playing time if and when the club is eliminated from playoff contention. For a night, there were no issues between the "old" and the "young." And together they breathed a little life back into the Red Sox’ season.