Ortiz has 20 HRs, on rare pace for his age

David Ortiz belted his 19th home run in the first inning, and added his 20th in the eighth. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

BOSTON -- David Ortiz’s two home runs Monday night gave him 20 for the season in the team's first 73 games, putting him on pace to hit 44 home runs this season.

No Red Sox player age 36 or older has ever hit 40 home runs in a season, according to research contributed by Tyler M. Browne of West Roxbury and confirmed through a search on Baseball-reference.com. The Sox record is 38, hit by Ted Williams in 1957, when he was 38 and also batted .388.

"I can't tell you what to attribute it to,'' manager Bobby Valentine said. "His batting practice every day is stellar. His games have been consistently terrific. The only time he got outside of himself was a couple of days ago, then he got the off day and came back with a vengeance tonight.

"I'm not going to try to analyze it. I'm just trying to enjoy it. It's what we've needed obviously.''

Ortiz's first home run came in the first inning, a towering shot over the Sox bullpen off Jays starter Henderson Alvarez. He hit No. 20 into the left-center-field bleachers leading off the eighth against reliever Darren Oliver. It was Ortiz's ninth home run off a lefty this season, most among left-handed hitters in the majors.

Only once before has Ortiz reached 20 home runs earlier in a season. That was in 2006, when he hit No. 20 on June 18 and finished with 54.

Ortiz now has 39 games in which he has homered twice, including 37 in a Red Sox uniform, tying Ted Williams for most in club history. He has never had a three-homer game.

Only seven players in major league history have hit as many as 40 at such an advanced age, and of those seven, three did so in the so-called “steroid era.” Barry Bonds did it four times, including a record 73 in 2001, when he was Ortiz’s age, 36. Rafael Palmeiro did it twice, and Andres Galarraga did it twice (1997-98).

The last player 36 or older to hit 40 or more in a season before the steroid era was Darrell Evans of the Tigers, who hit 40 in 1985, when he was 38. Henry Aaron did it twice (40 in 1973, at age 39; 47 in 1971, at age 37), Hank Sauer hit 41 when he was 37 in 1954, and Babe Ruth hit 41 in 1932, when he was 37, and 46 in 1931, when he was 36.

Only five players in major league history -- Bonds, Palmeiro, Aaron, Ruth and Galarraga -- have hit 44 or more home runs when 36 or older.

Ortiz chose not to speak with reporters after the game, citing the lateness of the hour.