After Ortiz’s grand slam helped Boston to a comfortable win over the Texas Rangers on Friday, the host Red Sox will look to continue their surge Saturday against struggling Rangers starter Jason Jennings.
Ortiz has been fighting his worst slump since joining the Red Sox in 2003. Entering the third inning of Friday’s 11-3 win over Texas, he was hitting a major-league worst .109 (7-for-64), and was hitless in his first 18 at-bats this season at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox (11-7) had won five of six entering Friday’s series opener, even though Ortiz failed to drive in a run in any of the five wins.
In the third inning Friday, Ortiz doubled his season home run and RBI totals with an opposite-field blast over the Green Monster. He added an RBI single in the eighth, finishing 2-for-4 with a walk and five RBIs.
“I’m sure he’s going to feel good about it,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “Obviously we do.”
The Red Sox broke the game open with five runs in the fourth, sparked by a trio of 24-year-olds. Jed Lowrie, playing in his third major league game, knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly. Jacoby Ellsbury added an RBI triple and Dustin Pedroia hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot.
For the game, the three players were a combined 4-for-9 with four walks, four RBIs and six runs scored.
Boston’s offense, which had struggled at times as the Red Sox started 5-6, has at least 11 hits in each of the last six games, averaging 7.7 runs over that span.
That’s not good news for Jennings (0-3, 8.79 ERA), whose results indicate he’s still trying to recover from elbow surgery. The right-hander made 18 starts for Houston last season before having a torn tendon surgically repaired on Aug. 31.
He hasn’t lasted more than five innings in any of his three starts for the Rangers. His most recent one may have been his worst, as he allowed six earned runs, seven hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings of Monday’s 7-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“He’s coming off an arm injury and needs time,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He has a track record of performing and we hope he starts performing the way he has in the past.”
He also has a positive track record against the Red Sox, beating them twice when he was with Colorado. He has allowed only three runs in 13 innings against Boston, including seven shutout innings in his only appearance at Fenway Park in 2002.
Jon Lester (1-2, 5.31) will start for the Red Sox. The left-hander has struggled in his last two starts, allowing four runs each time and walking nine batters in just 9 2-3 innings. He had a similar start against the Rangers in 2006, allowing three runs, five hits and four walks in 4 1-3 innings of an eventual 7-4 Boston loss.
Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock returned Friday from a one-game absence due to a sore back to hit a two-run homer. Outfielder Milton Bradley also extended his hitting streak to 13 games, but the Rangers (7-10) failed to improve to 3-0 on their nine-game road trip.
They’ve lost six of eight overall.