David Ortiz passes Carl Yastrzemski on MLB's all-time home run list
Before the start of Monday night's game against Toronto, a slumping David Ortiz told reporters not to worry. He might have had just one hit in his last 13 at-bats and a .241 average in the month of July, but the hits were going to come. Or, as the expressive Ortiz put it, "I'm about to get hotter than Jamaica in the middle of August."
Ortiz wasted no time making this sound less like unwarranted confidence and more like some excellent meteorology. The Red Sox' veteran designated hitter clobbered two homers Monday. He also drove in four and scored twice as Boston walloped the Blue Jays, 14-1, for the team's fifth straight win. Ortiz's 44 multi-home run games puts him alone in second place behind Babe Ruth (71) on the all-time American League list for left-handed batters.
Ortiz's two homers -- both two-run shots, one coming in the fourth inning off reliever Brad Mills and the other in the fifth off Mills again -- didn't just help the Red Sox win easily. The two bombs were also Nos. 452 and 453 of his career, pushing Ortiz past Boston legend Carl Yastrzemski in the Major League Baseball history books (note: Ortiz did not pass Yaz on the all-time Red Sox home run list. He's currently in third with 395 home runs in a Boston uniform, behind Ted Williams with 521 and Yastrzemski with 452).
Ortiz now sits one home run behind Adam Dunn for 36th on the all-time career home run list.
For Ortiz, the homers may be the end point for a skid that saw him go hitless in his last 11 at-bats. He hadn't notched a multi-game hit since July 9 against the White Sox and had gone 20 plate appearances between home runs, the last coming on July 12 against Houston. Ortiz had just that one homer in July before Monday night's game, and had watched his OPS drop to a near-season-worst .822.
As Boston has struggled this season, so has Ortiz, failing to put up his customary brilliant numbers. He leads the team with 22 homers on the year, as well as 68 RBI, but his .249 batting average heading into Monday was his worst mark with the Red Sox since 2009's .238 mark. It's the same story with his .348 on-base percentage and .474 slugging percentage. All told, Ortiz's 166 OPS+ going into the game was his lowest since he came to Boston before the 2003 season; only once in the 11 seasons since then has he posted an OPS+ under 200. That came in 2012, at 198.
But perhaps the history-making night will spur Ortiz and the Red Sox offense, which has now scored in double digits for the second time in five games. Fourteen runs is the most the Red Sox have tallied this season. That sudden burst of runs — 27 in the last four games, 46 in the team's last five wins — has helped the Red Sox to a 9-7 record in July and temporarily moved them out of the basement of the American League East. With Baltimore idle, Boston is now seven games out of first place in the division and 5 1/2 back in the wild card. But to keep pushing for first, the Red Sox need Ortiz to be true to his word and turn into a Montego Bay heat wave.