David Ortiz hit a towering home run deep into right field at Camden Yards in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’s 6-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday. His late-inning presence was a reminder of who Ortiz used to be, and what he could continue to be if he can finally figure things out this season.
Was it a sign of things to come? Maybe.
Ortiz will likely be in the lineup again Friday with Toronto expected to start right-handed pitcher Drew Hutchison, who in addition to a sparkly 5-1 record owns a 4.91 ERA. Ortiz could feast off the righty back in the friendly confines of Fenway, but history suggests otherwise.
Ortiz is a career .133 hitter against Hutchison, managing just two base hits in 15 at-bats with four strikeouts.
And, not to be the bearer of bad news, but Ortiz didn’t exactly have a good night Thursday. He didn’t record a hit in his other three at-bats, making unproductive outs in each of them — two of which came with runners on base — and he left four runners on base for Mike Napoli, Pablo Sandoval and Xander Bogaerts to drive in. In other words, that home run was nice, but it didn’t fix anything … yet.
One has to wonder if the pressure is getting to Ortiz, or if he’s overthinking things. We saw Mike Napoli start hitting home runs and break out of a funk at the end of May after admitting that he was putting too much pressure on himself to hit those home runs in a stumbling offense. They finally came when he started trying to just make contact instead.
Hanley Ramirez went through some of the same troubles after injuring his shoulder in late April. Both he and Napoli talked to Dr. Dustin Pedroia, who pinpointed the holes in their swings in his spare time.
Ortiz recently made comments about, to paraphrase, knowing he’s essentially worthless if he doesn’t hit home runs. Sound familiar?
There was a time when Ortiz sprayed the ball all over the field. Maybe things would be better now if he just swallowed his pride, stopped being stubborn and tried to make contact again instead of swinging for the fences. You’d have to think Pedroia might agree.
Ortiz’s well-documented struggles have largely come against left-handed pitching this season. He has hit all seven of his home runs against right-handed pitching. He’s also hitting .285 in 130 at-bats against them, and his .OPS is nearly .900. The man still has some gas left in the tank.
Ortiz averages right around 520 at-bats per season. His current numbers against right-handed pitching projected out over a full season’s worth of at-bats come out to a .277 batting average, 28 home runs and 72 RBIs. Obviously if he plays every day he has to face left-handed pitching, but those are still pretty good numbers.
For an almost-40-year-old batting in the middle of a stagnant offense, pretty good would do a lot of good for the Red Sox.
Let’s take a look at some other notes from Boston’s loss.
The lefty began his first season in Boston with a 2-4 record and a 6.91 ERA over his first six outings. He turned things around in May, though, and in his last five outings he shot off a 4-1 record with a 2.73 ERA. It felt like he had finally turned a corner, despite a hiccup two weeks ago in Texas.
Not only was he a mess in Baltimore on Thursday, he also blew his cool in a totally uncool way. For a guy that had been pitching pretty well, that seems sort of weird. Losing games takes its toll, especially in Boston.
— Junichi Tazawa hasn’t given up a run since May 23, and has only given up two runs total since May 1. He’s given up four runs all season en route to a 1.33 ERA. Every team has at least one representative at the All Star Game, and though Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts are certainly making their cases, Tazawa probably deserves a nod as well.
— Speaking of Bogaerts, he extended his hitting streak to seven games with a timely RBI single in the sixth inning. At the time, it pulled the Red Sox within one run. He now has hit safely in 10 of his past 11 games. It’s his second hitting streak of seven or more games in 2015, with the first coming from May 17-24.
— Pablo Sandoval made another error at third base late in the game, this time putting Manny Machado on second base on an easy grounder to third to begin the eighth. Once again it cost the Red Sox the eventual game-winning run. Mookie Betts also let a ball tip off his glove in center field earlier in the game, though his quick reaction led to Bogaerts taking the cut-off throw and gunning out Adam Jones at the plate.
— Could Friday be a breakout game for the Red Sox offense? Hutchison was the man on the mound the night of Boston’s loss in the 11-8 slugfest back on April 28 at Fenway Park. Several Red Sox have terrific career averages against Hutchison, including Sandoval (4-for-5, .800), Bogaerts (6-for-12, .500), Betts (2-for-4, .500), Napoli (4-for-9, .444) and Pedroia (4-for-13, .308)
— Ryan Hanigan’s rehab is moving along steadily.
Ryan Hanigan has been swinging a bat. Thinks he could take BP on the field this weekend. RedSox could use him back.—
Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) June 12, 2015
— Tanya Carpenter, the fan who suffered life-threatening injuries at Fenway Park last week after being hit by a broken bat, has been updated to be in “good” status. Read more on Carpenter’s update here.
Thumbnail image via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images
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