04/19/08 12:18 AM ET
Big Papi makes grand return
Red Sox bash Rangers behind Ortiz's homer, five-run fourth
By Mike Petraglia / Special to MLB.com
With the bases loaded and the Red Sox trailing the Rangers by one run, the slugger drove the first pitch he saw from Luis Mendoza in the bottom of the third to the second row of the Green Monster seats. Big Papi's eighth career grand slam propelled Boston to an 11-3 win over Texas at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Ortiz's seventh career grand slam in Boston tied him with Ted Williams and Jim Rice for the most at Fenway Park. Ortiz has eight career slams and 210 homers overall, tying him with Rico Petrocelli for ninth place on the club's all-time list.
But the night was not about the past but the present and future for Ortiz, starting with the reception organized by the disabled Mike Lowell after Big Papi returned to the dugout.
"Mikey Lowell got us to sit quietly," captain Jason Varitek said. "It was just a big lift for David."
Ortiz received the rookie cold shoulder for the shortest of moments before being mobbed by his teammates in the dugout.
"They did, they did, they got me with that one," Ortiz told the Red Sox radio network postgame show. "Definitely, my teammates are the best. They were so happy to see me coming through. And the fans, they've been great, too."
But it was his teammates who have been there day in and day out, as the slugger struggled to find his groove.
"As long as I've been here, we've tried to build a good relationship between all of us," Ortiz continued. "When somebody struggled, you've just got to let them know there's a next day and give them confidence to come through the next time."
While his teammates were happy, they hardly sounded concerned about his .111 batting average to go with the one homer and four RBIs in his first 16 games.
"David will hit," Varitek said. "It's just a matter of time. He's still getting into his groove. It was a big home run for us, and it allowed us to make things happen from there."
"These past few days since I came back since I had that day off, I've been getting that feeling," Ortiz said. "I've been using my hands and working on my mechanics. I never kill my confidence. I always stayed focused on the next day and work hard. Everybody talks about how you start the season. It's not how you start, but how you finish."
|With his third-inning grand slam, David Ortiz has now gone deep 210 times since joining the Red Sox in 2003. The tater ties him with Rico Petrocelli for 9th on the club's all-time list.|
Dustin Pedroia also homered, his first of the season, in a five-run fourth that blew the game wide open.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-0) was the beneficiary of the offensive fireworks, winning his fourth straight outing since a no-decision on Opening Day in Tokyo. But again, the right-hander had trouble keeping his pitch count under control, throwing 101 pitches while getting just one out deep into the sixth inning.
"I thought Dice worked behind in the count a lot," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "First-pitch counts and 1-1 counter weren't very good. He pitched behind in the count a lot."
Matsuzaka allowed three runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings, and he left after allowing a one-out, two-run homer to Hank Blalock in the sixth.
"[It was] just like my last start," Matsuzaka said, referring to his 116 pitches over five innings on Sunday. "I realize that I have to go deeper into games. The very fact that we have to even talk about pitch counts, I think that's a problem right there."
A former Boston farmhand acquired by Texas in a trade for reliever Bryan Corey, Mendoza (0-2) was roughed up for seven runs on five hits over three-plus innings.
Ortiz added an RBI single in the eighth inning to cap off his two-hit, five-RBI night.
"First of all, he gives us the lift with the opposite-field home run, which, when you see guys drive the ball to the opposite field, that's good," Francona said. "Then he lines out to left, then he stayed on another ball and hit the line drive to right. He swung at strikes and got rewarded for it, too, so that's good. I'm sure that he's going to feel good. We obviously do."
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.