Last season, David Ortiz enjoyed a career year. But this year, he’s having a dream season.
Ortiz homered twice Thursday, the first to spark a six-run second inning, as the Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Anaheim Angels with a 9-3 win. Jason Varitek was 3-for-4 with a homer, and Nomar Garciaparra had three hits, including a homer, for the Red Sox.
Boston, which has won four straight, remained 2 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading New York Yankees, 7-5 winners over Texas. The Red Sox, however, increased their lead in the wild-card race to 1 1/2 games over Oakland.
Ortiz spent the first six years of his career with the Minnesota Twins, capping the stint with a career highs of 20 homers, 75 RBIs and a .272 average in 2002.
After signing a one-year deal with the Red Sox in the offseason, Ortiz has been enjoying a magical campaign. He is hitting .293 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs this season after Thursday’s performance, the sixth multihomer game of his career, and fourth this season.
Ortiz has 11 homers in his last 28 games after hitting just four through the first 55 games of the season. His last 12 hits have been for extra bases.
The Orioles salvaged a split of their four-game series with the Minnesota Twins with Thursday’s 5-3 victory.
“It just takes a lot of the pressure off me,” said Cust, who didn’t see any playing time in two brief stints this season with the Orioles. “I was getting kind of frustrated. I was relaxed in Triple-A, but I didn’t feel like that at all here.”
STANDINGS: Orioles - 4th place, 15 GB, AL East. Red Sox - 2nd place, 2 1/2 GB, AL East.
ORIOLES GAME ONE PROBABLE STARTER: Rick Helling (6-8, 5.57 ERA). Helling is 0-2 with a 5.36 ERA over his last four starts, and hasn’t won since a 7-2 victory over Seattle on July 9. The veteran right-hander was reached for five runs and eight hits over six innings of Sunday’s 7-5 loss to the Red Sox, striking out six and walking one. Helling is 6-4 with a 5.03 ERA in 15 career appearances, including 13 starts, against Boston.
RED SOX GAME ONE PROBABLE STARTER: Derek Lowe (11-5, 4.96 ERA). Lowe is 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA in his last three starts. The veteran right-hander surrendered six runs—five earned—and eight hits over 5 2-3 innings of Saturday’s 11-2 loss to Baltimore, striking out four and walking three. Lowe is 5-5 with a 3.18 ERA and two saves over 26 career appearances, including eight starts, against the Orioles.
ORIOLES GAME TWO PROBABLE STARTER: Eric DuBose (0-1, 1.29 ERA). DuBose was recalled from the minors last month to help fortify Baltimore’s bullpen. The 27-year-old left-hander dropped his lone start of the season—4-0 to Kansas City on May 4—as he allowed two runs and three hits in 6 1-3 innings. DuBose hasn’t figured into the decision of his two career relief appearances against the Red Sox, giving up one run and one hit in two innings.
RED SOX GAME TWO PROBABLY STARTER: Casey Fossum (5-4, 5.56 ERA). Fossum has made three relief appearances since coming of the disabled list on July 17. The 25-year-old left-hander, who was out with a shoulder injury, is 4-4 with a 5.76 ERA in his 12 starts this season and was 0-3 with a 10.62 ERA in his last three starts before the injury. Fossum is 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA in four career appearances, including three starts, against Baltimore.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Orioles - Melvin Mora, .325 avg.; Tony Batista, 19 HRs; Jay Gibbons, 78 RBIs; Jeff Conine, 69 runs; Brian Roberts, 18 SBs. Red Sox - Bill Mueller, .332 avg.; Manny Ramirez, 25 HRs and 80 RBIs; Garciaparra, 90 runs; Johnny Damon, 22 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 4-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Orioles - OF Gibbons is batting .415 (17-for-41) during a career-high 10-game hitting streak. … The Orioles have been successful on 33 of their last 41 stolen base attempts. … OF Larry Bigbie has hit safely in nine of 11 games since being recalled from Triple-A Ottawa on July 27. Red Sox - Seven of SS Garciaparra’s last 15 hits have been homers. … The Red Sox have won 10 of their last 12 at home. … Boston has homered in each of its last 11 games. The last time the Sox accomplished that feat was Sept. 18-28, 2001. They’ve homered in 17 of their last 18 games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Orioles - 23-31 on the road; Red Sox - 38-16 at home.
INJURIES: Orioles - 1B David Segui (wrist), 15-day DL; OF Mora (hand), 15-day DL; OF B.J. Surhoff (quadriceps), 15-day DL; RHP Kurt Ainsworth (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Omar Daal (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (knee), 60-day DL; INF Jerry Hairston Jr. (foot), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL. Red Sox - INF Jeremy Giambi (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brandon Lyon (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Robert Person (hip), 15-day DL.