After David Ortiz was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained right Achilles’, there was fear the Red Sox would struggle with such a huge offensive force on the shelf.
A total of 21 players had been forced to the DL in the first half of the season and it was a sobering setback to lose Ortiz at the start of the second half.
“Yeah, it’s another guy we’re going to have to make up for the loss of,’’ said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez before Wednesday night’s 10-1 win over the White Sox at Fenway Park in front of 37,367. “He’s been our MVP, our best hitter so far this year, and it’s going to take a team contribution to make up for that.’’
That’s precisely what the Red Sox got in the drubbing of the visitors and Pedro Hernandez, a 23-year-old rookie who was called up from Triple A Charlotte to make his Major League debut.
No Big Papi?
Cody Ross and Gonzalez more than made up for Ortiz’s absence, making sure it didn’t lead to a sudden power outage. Ross and Gonzalez combined to go 6 for 9 with 4 runs, 10 RBIs, and three home runs, including back-to-back shots in a four-run fourth to put the game out of reach, 8-1.
“Any time you lose a guy like David, it’s tough to make up for,’’ Ross said. “But when you have guys getting on base early and you have the heart of your lineup coming to the plate every time with runners in scoring position, it puts a ton of pressure on the [other] team.’’
Ross, who went 3 for 4, provided the crowning blows with his three-run homers in the third and fourth, the former breaking a 1-1 tie. His 14th and 15th homers of the season marked his third multi-homer game of the season and 10th of his career.
“He’s got one thing on his mind when he’s swinging and that’s what we like to call, ‘Going to the moon,’ ’’ said Will Middlebrooks. “I mean, he’s trying to put something in the lights. That’s his game and he knows that’s what he does well, so why not?’’
The 10-run, 14-hit barrage boosted Felix Doubront, who became the first 10-game winner of Boston’s staff at 10-4. He seemed to establish an identity as the team’s stopper after picking up his fifth win after a Boston loss.
“Felix Doubront’s been our most consistent pitcher all year,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine. “I guess coming out of spring training, Vegas would’ve given you pretty good odds that he would not have been the first one on our staff with 10 wins, but he’s been consistent.’’
Doubront got off to a shaky start when he spotted the White Sox a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Alejandro De Aza and Kevin Youkilis led off with back-to-back singles before Paul Konerko’s single to right scored De Aza.
The Red Sox came back in the bottom of the frame and got a lead-off double to left from Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 3 for 4 with three runs. Gonzalez then stroked a single to right to score Ellsbury with the tying run, 1-1.
It was the third straight game Gonzalez had tied with a first-inning RBI hit. He has now hit safely in 22 of his last 23 games, going .404 (38 for 94) with five doubles, three homers, 19 RBIs and 14 runs.
“He’s driving runs in, he’s using the whole field, he’s hitting all pitches, fouling off the tough ones,’’ Valentine said. “He looks like the real Adrian Gonzalez.’’
After Doubront strung together scoreless innings in the second and third, Ross rewarded his pitcher’s work when he belted a 1-and-1 pitch from Hernandez into the Monster seats that scored Ellsbury (lead-off single to center) and Carl Crawford (single to center) to give the Sox a 4-1 lead.
“It’s a small sample of this lineup, but when you have two lefthanders in front of him and two lefthanders behind him, he’s kind of sitting there in a rocking chair,’’ Valentine said of the righthanded-hitting Ross. “He made them pay. Great job.’’
Doubront came back in the fourth and retired the side in order.
The Sox responded with some complementary offense, erupting for four runs in the fourth, which was highlighted by Ross’s three-run shot off Hernandez followed by Gonzalez’s opposite-field shot that made it 8-1.
It marked the fifth time this season the Sox had struck for back-to-back homers.
Doubront did not give an inch to the White Sox, retiring the visitors in 1-2-3 fashion for the second consecutive inning.
Doubront ended his night in fine fashion, with a scoreless sixth in which he overcame a one-out walk to Konerko by inducing Alex Rios to ground into a 3-6-1 double play. Doubront, who allowed one run on four hits and three walks while striking out two batters, handed it over to a trio of relievers — Matt Albers in the seventh, Mark Melancon in the eighth and Andrew Miller in the ninth – who combined to throw three scoreless innings, retiring all nine batters they faced and striking out three.
Hector Santiago, who entered in relief of Hernandez with no outs and a pair of runners aboard in the fifth, wound up getting tagged for a pair of runs in the sixth. Santiago hit lead-off hitter Crawford with a pitch, then gave up a towering double off the wall to Ross before Gonzalez ripped a single to center, scoring Crawford and Ross to make it 10-1.
By that point in the game, the Red Sox had a combined 10 RBIs from their right fielder and first baseman, which more than adequately made up for the absence of their biggest slugger.
“You can’t make up for David,’’ Ross said. “Nobody in baseball can. He’s one of the best hitters in the game. You just try to pick him up and do your part and tonight we did.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.