Shane Victorino mashed two homers, including the 100th of his career, en route to a personal best seven RBIs in a 13-2 win against the Orioles on Tuesday. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Shane Victorino homered, homered again and doubled in successive at bats to drive in seven runs in Boston’s 13-2 rout of AL East rival Baltimore for an extra game’s cushion atop the division standings. Victorino’s three extra-base hits -- two lasers over the Green Monster and the exact opposite, a bloop double to shallow right -- followed a walk and were sandwiched around a hit by pitch, as the rightfielder reached base five times and had the most RBIs by any Red Sox at Fenway Park since Nomar Garciaparra drove in eight back on July 23, 2002. They were home runs 100 and 101 of the Flyin' Hawaiian's career.
Victorino’s hits came against three different Orioles lefthanders (starter Wei-Yin Chen and relievers Troy Patton and Brian Matusz), though what has matted most over the past month hasn’t been the handedness of the pitcher but the location of the batter’s box where Victorino has dug his cleats.
The former switch-hitter has temporarily become an exclusively righthanded bat, because of a left leg injury that he’s playing through, and so far he’s excelled in all situations when batting from the right. It helps that Victorino was solely a righty hitter until learning to switch hit as a 22-year-old in Double A, but learning to pick up the break and tail of pitches -- from big league pitchers -- in right-on-right situations for the first time in a decade still ought to be a challenge.
Instead, he’s had near-equal success in right-on-right plate appearances (a .293 average and .884 OPS), albeit in a small 48-PA sample, than in right-on-left situations (.315 with a .880 OPS). Both are much better than his lefthanded production when he has a switch-hitter’s platoon advantage -- in those chances, he’s batting just .277 with a .713 OPS.
Overall, it’s been a strong bounceback season for Victorino after a disastrous walk-year, when he had a .704 OPS for the Phillies and Dodgers, leading to a three-year, $39 million contract that figured to be richer after a better 2012 season. At the very least, it wouldn’t have been derided as a likely free-agent flop
(by yours truly and others). Instead, he’s ably made two rightward adjustments -- from centerfield to right and switch-hitting to righthanded batting -- that have helped the Red Sox move in the right direction.