BOSTON -- Mired in a 7-13 swoon littered with ugly losses and a growing list of physical issues, the Boston Red Sox seemed in need of some inspiration.
Ramirez crushed a pair of three-run homers in the first two innings, and Ortiz reached another major milestone with a mammoth shot to center in the seventh. The impressive nature of the trio of long balls stood in stark contrast to more recent images of Ramirez and Ortiz, who left games this week after suffering painful injuries that might’ve sidelined them earlier in the season.
“We’re at the time of year, regardless of the ailment, and we’ve got a long list right now. They know it’s time they got to push,” manager John Farrell said. “We’ve got to find ways to spell guys, get them off their feet when it’s capable. We’re in the thick of this, and guys aren’t going to be 100 percent. It was good to see Hanley respond.”
“We know where we are -- we’re right there. It’s go time,” Ramirez said after he recorded his 20th career multihomer game and matched his career high with six RBIs.
That’s the tone Ortiz set the night before, when he was a surprising entry on the lineup card hours after he fouled a ball off his shin and limped, quite gingerly, to the clubhouse. The big man doubled in his first at-bat Thursday and was 3-for-4 in this one, including his bomb to center that made him the third player -- along with all-time greats Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams -- to record 1,000 extra-base hits in a Red Sox uniform.
Farrell said Ortiz was telling his teammates in the dugout he was “back” and ready to awaken from a slump that had seen him go 13 games without a home run and 15 without a multihit effort.
Yet, even while the Sox were riding the power strokes of Ramirez and Ortiz, they managed to add to their physical woes. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia reached and scored in each of the first two frames before leaving the game with flu-like symptoms. Farrell said later that Pedroia had received IV fluids the past two days and that he wanted to get his former MVP off his feet once the score was 8-2.
Additionally, while right fielder Mookie Betts came back from a calf issue, it was revealed after the game that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is still feeling the effects of a ball fouled off his big toe. Farrell said the injury may have played a part in forcing Bradley to cede to left fielder Andrew Benintendi on a gapper in the seventh and could have been the cause for Bradley’s fall while chasing a deep fly off the bat of Jean Segura in the first inning.
Segura’s drive -- which came on the first pitch of the game from David Price -- fell in for a triple. The very next delivery by Price resulted in a liner to Bradley, who threw home to cause Segura to hold up. Catcher Bryan Holaday then fired the ball to third to get Segura scrambling back to the bag, resulting in one of the odder double plays of the season.
That sequence, as well as a two-run homer by Rickie Weeks Jr. later in the frame, made for a frantic beginning for Boston. And that’s what made Ramirez’s onslaught -- which included a line shot to left in the first that would’ve landed in the Charles River if not for an ad banner over the Green Monster seats, and a second-inning blast to straightaway center -- all the more satisfying.
“He comes out the game [Thursday], you don’t expect the kind of aggressiveness in that first swing that he took,” Farrell said. “A 3-0 pitch that he gets in the middle of the plate, squares it up good. ... He and David set the tone offensively. And particularly after the way the first inning unfolded. Two pitches thrown, and I don’t know if I’ve seen that much action two pitches into a game. It was good to answer right back.”
Price, who settled down to get through eight innings with a 9-3 lead, was appreciative of the support and fully aware of what it took for Ramirez and Ortiz to contribute.
“This is, whatever day it is, in August. Everybody feels it right now. To a man,” he said. “If you’ve been doing it the entire year, if you’ve been playing every day like those guys have, everybody feels something. Nobody’s 100 percent. Not to suck it up but just go out there and battle for us, it was huge for us and huge for [Ramirez].”
Clinging to an AL wild-card spot with less than 50 games to play, it’s all hands on deck for the Red Sox. Ramirez and Ortiz on Friday night showed their teammates just how important that is.