In their 8-3 loss at Fenway Park Wednesday night, the Red Sox matched the Angels with 11 hits. Four of those hits, though, came from one batter — David Ortiz, including his 30th home run of the season, leading off the third inning against Cory Rasmus.
Ortiz has hit at least 30 home runs in eight seasons, all since joining the Sox in 2003, matching Ted Williams for most in team history. He reached the mark in his 120th game, the earliest he has done so since 2006, when he got there in his 84th game.
Matching his home run total of last season, Ortiz has hit 30 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since he reached that mark in five straight seasons from 2003-07.
Ortiz, who went 4 for 4 and was lifted for pinch hitter Alex Hassan in the ninth, matched his career high for hits in a game, and has reached base four times in three straight games for the first time in his career.
“He’s getting a lot of pitches on the plate from the opposition,” said manager John Farrell. “I think over the last 7-10 days he’s getting more pitches to hit inside in a given at-bat and he’s responding. Multiple hits a day, driving the baseball well. He’s in a good place.”
No one else in the Sox lineup had more than one hit, as the team combined to go 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position, leaving 10 runners on base. As the Sox extended their losing streak to four games, and five of their last six, Ortiz has provided some of the few bright spots. Over his last nine games, he has gone 16 for 36, raising his average from .245 to .263, and his OPS from .832 to .878, with 3 doubles, 4 home runs, and 11 RBIs.
“You know me,” Ortiz said. “When I see stuff to hit, I hit it. I’m feeling good and I want that to last. It’s hard for a hitter like me to stay hot all year. But right now I feel good up there and you see what happens. I just wish we were winning more games. That’s what matters.”
He also is on pace for some dubious distinctions this season.
Ortiz, who has 93 RBIs, entered the game leading the majors. According to Elias, he is on pace to become just the second major leaguer to lead his league in RBIs for a team that finished last in runs. Wally Berger did so with 130 RBIs for the 1935 Braves, who scored 575 runs.
Since the start of the divisional era, the only players to lead the majors in RBIs for a last-place team are Andre Dawson with the 1987 Cubs and Alex Rodriguez for the 2002 Rangers.
“I’m trying to hit the way I always have,” Ortiz said. “What else can I do? I’ve been in this position before. It’s one of those years where you have to suck it up, finish the season playing hard, and hopefully next year we get better.”
While the Sox are mostly playing for next year, with so many young players around, there is a benefit to having Ortiz performing at such a high level.
“David’s a tremendous hitter and he’s getting it going and hopefully he can stay hot for the rest of the year because he’s fun to watch when he gets on a roll like this,” said hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. “David is one of the best hitters I’ve been around.
“With the young guys watching how he goes about his work, each at-bat, his cage work, he’s a tremendous role model to have around.”