The wind isn’t always the best gauge. It’s fickle by nature. From batting practice to the first pitch it can change, which is why Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn’t want to think much of it when he first felt the gusts.
Early Tuesday, when the Sox were getting their swings in before taking on a Rangers team that had swept them in a three-game set just a month ago, Saltamacchia took his cuts and after every one it felt like the wind was blowing straight in.
A few hours later, it couldn’t have been more different.
“All of a sudden the ball kind of flew out to right center,” he said.
His approach remained just trying to get the ball in a hole somewhere, but his teammates felt differently.
“They decided to go and hit homers,” he said.
On a night when the Sox banged out eight doubles, a triple, and four homers among their 19 hits, it felt like every ball they hit had a hot-air ballon attached to it and the Sox buried the Rangers, 17-5.
After being outscored, 16-4, in those three games in May, the Sox made up the scoring gap in a night.
The Sox scored in each of the first seven innings. They erupted for their largest scoring outburst since hanging 18 on the Orioles two years ago. They hadn’t racked up as many extra-base hits since 1990 against the Tigers and they hadn’t done it at Fenway since 1950, when they smacked 17 extra-base hits against the St. Louis Browns.
It had also been two years since four Sox had at least three-hit performances on the same night. Saltalamacchia went 3 for 5 with a homer, two RBIs, and three runs scored. Daniel Nava and Mike Carp both went 3 for 4 and combined for four RBIs and seven runs. Carp, David Ortiz, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all drove in three runs. Stephen Drew went 4 for 5 with two RBIS and three runs.
“This is a group that not only wants to compete but they like to compete internally and I think we’re getting quite a bit of that right now,” said manager John Farrell.
The victim of the onslaught was the Rangers’ 24-year-old righthander Justin Grimm, who had some history with the Sox, going back to 2007, when the Sox took him in the 13th round of the draft. He made a trip to Fenway Park and pitched in front of Farrell, who at the time was pitching coach, but in the end, he decided to go to the University of Georgia.
Tuesday was the first time he had taken the mound at Fenway since.
He left it after 1⅔ innings completely shellshocked.
He faced 15 batters, giving up hits to seven and walking three more. Eight scored. He hadn’t been roughed up that badly since last June when he he gave up six runs on eight hits to the Tigers in his second major league start.
“We knew that he had good stuff, he just wasn’t locating it probably as well as he wanted to tonight,” Nava said. “When he did locate in the zone, we were able to hit the ball hard and get some runners on. You just keep things going like that.”
The Sox have seen seven rookie pitchers this season and punished nearly all of them, going 5-2, while piling up 52 hits and 34 runs.
Ortiz started things in the first inning when he doubled to left center, driving in Nava. Saltalamacchia added a run-scoring groundout and Grimm (5-4) escaped with only two runs allowed.
But things unraveled altogether for him in the second.
He gave Jackie Bradley Jr. a souvenir, serving up a 2-and-1 changeup that Bradley shot over the Rangers bullpen for his first major league home run and a 4-0 lead.
After Nava walked and Carp singled, Ortiz blasted a fly ball deep to the triangle. As it rolled around in no-man’s land, Ortiz flew around the base paths, getting his first triple in two years and driving in two more runs.
After Napoli shot a ball to left-center that allowed Ortiz to jog home and Saltalamacchia doubled, Rangers manager Ron Washington finally decided to pull his pitcher from the fight.
But that didn’t stop the Sox from doing more damage. Drew doubled over Leonys Martin’s head in center to score Saltalamacchia and put the Sox up, 8-0.
The six-run inning allowed the Sox to kick their feet up the rest of the way, particularly Ryan Dempster (3-6), who hadn’t pitched with so much run support all year.
“Two touchdowns and a field goal,” Dempster said.
For the second consecutive start, he commanded his fastball and kept the Rangers off balance with his splitter, striking out six while allowing just three runs on five hits in seven innings. He had two of his sliders punished for home runs by Jeff Baker and Nelson Cruz but otherwise kept damage to a minimum.
“Our approach with Demp is just, ‘We’re not going to give in,’ ” Saltalamacchia said. “Even if we’ve got a 12-run lead, we’re still going to pitch the same way he would pitch because that’s what you do. You’ve got to pitch.”
By the end, Rangers outfielder David Murphy was on the mound and Carp was in the clubhouse, having been ejected in the eighth inning after striking out looking at one of Murphy’s curveballs, the first time he had been bounced from a game in his career.
“It’s definitely strange,” Carp said. “Any time you step up, you see a position player on the mound, it just makes for a strange atmosphere and then getting tossed on top of that definitely makes it a whole lot more unbelievable.”
But by that point the game was well out of hand.
“It’s baseball, it happens,” Carp said. “Over the course of the year, 162 games, you’re going to have opportunities to score a lot of runs and tonight we didn’t stop. We kept it going all night, nobody gave in until the last out was made.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.