Boston Red Sox sluggers David Ortiz & Mookie Betts put themselves in some historic company last night against the Baltimore Orioles, making magic numbers.
Bostonians felt like the dark clouds hanging over them in 2015 would never leave, pouring tearful raindrops down hard on any chance that the Red Sox would climb out of the American League East division cellar. Fast-forward to September 2016, the sun continues to shine even when it’s a night game. The 5-2 victory last night against the Orioles has the same Bostonians feeling like the team used their wands to send those clouds away, leaving only a magical number in its place: eight games to win the division.
Much of that has to do with Ortiz, the undisputed leader of the Red Sox.
Last night, his three-run blast to center field was his 36th of the season, the most by any player in his retirement year:
Ian Browne of MLB.com reported Ortiz saying, “Everybody wishes in their last year playing in front of the fans could have a good season. I worked this offseason to have a good year. I didn’t know it was going to turn out to be this good, but I worked for it.”
He must have worked for it. Ortiz’s home run was off of a 97-mph fastball by Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman, suggesting that the keen eye and bat speed haven’t aged physically as much as they’ve gotten wiser with age. Even if Ortiz was guessing fastball, and he was, he still had to catch up to it. Not every player about to retire can do that, hence why they go off into the sunset in the first place.
Browne also recognized that Ortiz didn’t have to carry the team on his back, either. Not completely. Betts also had a big night, going 3-for-5 and becoming “Boston’s first player with 200 hits since Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011.” Browne added, “Betts is the seventh player in history with at least 200 hits, 30 homers, 40 doubles and 20 stolen bases in the same season,” and he’s only 23 years old.
Interestingly enough, Betts was the leadoff man, his position in the lineup for most of the last two seasons, even though he’s been batting cleanup for 29 games. One reason for the move was to give Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia the night off, but a bigger reason would be the resurgence of Hanley Ramirez. His .357 batting average in September has helped Han-Ram hit nine home runs and 23 RBIs in just 18 games. His recent success seemingly demands more chances to hit, which requires pushing Ramirez higher in the lineup.
However, on this night, the sun shined on Ortiz and Betts, waving their bats like magical wands to lift the Red Sox five games ahead of the Orioles and maintained their four-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays. The division is at their command; Boston controls their own destiny. If they win eight of their remaining regular season games, the Red Sox will make it to the postseason, a place that seemed impossible to see through the clouds of misfortune in 2015.