As usual, the shift was on when David Ortiz, the notorious pull hitter for the Boston Red Sox, slowly made his way into the batter’s box in the second inning of Friday’s big divisional showdown against the Toronto Blue Jays.
All the spray charts will show that the majority of the hits off the bat of the beefy left-handed hitter will wind their way into right field.
To try to defend against this, the Blue Jays shift all their infielders on the left side over to the right with Brett Lawrie, the third baseman, taking up a spot in shallow right field, in front of Jose Bautista.
Ortiz has a simple remedy for all this deep defensive thinking -- whack the ball over the fence, which is exactly what he did for the 13th time this season, lifting a 2-2 offering from Henderson Alvarez over the wall at Rogers Centre.
The home run went to left-centre, just the third opposite field homer Ortiz has enjoyed on the year.
With Ortiz leading the way, the Red Sox would go on to maul Toronto 7-2 in the first of a three-game set against their American League East rival, much to the chagrin of a jazzed gathering of 29,678.
One of their numbers included a rather uninhibited sort who scampered onto the field in the sixth inning, clad only in blue boxers with the words “Sorry Mom” scribbled on his chest, and led security staff on a merry chase.
It was the Blue Jays who were left feeling sorry, hoping for more of a more polished showing coming off a three-game sweep of divisional foe Baltimore.
With the win, the Red Sox won for the 15th time in their last 21 outings and have pulled even with the Blue Jays at the bottom of the rather cramped A.L. East standing, each with 27-25 records.
Clay Buchholz, the Boston starter, was mesmerizing to the Toronto hitters with his electric mix of pitches.
He struck out the petulant Jose Bautista the first three times he came to the plate, including in the sixth inning where all three Toronto batters went down looking.
The only Blue Jay batters to inflict any harm were Yunel Escobar, who stroked his third home run in the third inning, and David Cooper, who did likewise in the seventh when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Buchholz allowed six hits and struck out seven over eight innings of work to improve to 5-2 on the year.
“He kept the ball down in the strike zone,” Farrell said of Buchholz, who has now won each of his last six starts in Toronto dating back to 2009. “And four pitches for strikes, he’s going to slow some people down with that stuff.”
The Blue Jays must have felt they were in a time warp when Alvarez was hit in the lower right leg by a ground ball struck by Mike Aviles in the fifth inning with Boston leading 2-1.
It was the same kind of play that knocked out starter Brandon Morrow in Wednesday’s game against the Orioles.
After a bit of a delay, and some warmup throws, Alvarez was deemed okay to continue.
But you have to wonder if it was the wise choice as Alvarez was reluctant to cover first base on what could have been a double-play in the sixth and was touched up for two more earned runs before departing after one out in the seventh.
“He didn’t feel any ill-affects from the ground ball off the right shin, stayed in it,” Farrell said.
In the sixth, after surrendering hits to the first two Boston batters, Alvarez walked Ortiz to load the bases.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia then stroked a grounder to the right side that Cooper gobbled up and then made the right choice to throw to second base to force out Ortiz.
But when Alvarez was hesitant at covering first on the play Escobar had nobody to throw to and Daniel Nava crossed home plate with the third Boston run.
In the seventh, Alvarez allowed a leadoff double to Ryan Sweeney.
After striking out Aviles it was only then that Farrell decided he’d seen enough from his starter, and went to the bullpen for Luis Perez.
And Perez also struggled.
After getting Nick Punto to ground out, Perez allowed four consecutive hits that scored four more Boston runs to put this game out of reach for the Blue Jays.
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