With 11 wins in their last 14 games, the Red Sox are already red hot, and they’ll be looking for their fifth straight home victory Wednesday night when they continue a three-game set with the Florida Marlins.
Boston (39-25) ranks fourth in the majors with 347 runs even though one of their most prolific sluggers is having his worst season. Through June 5, Ortiz was hitting .188 with one home run and 52 strikeouts in 191 at-bats.
Ortiz, though, may finally be coming around. He went 2 for 3 with a home run and three RBIs—all during a six-run fourth inning—in Tuesday’s 8-2 win over Florida.
He is 9 for 23 (.391) with four home runs in his last nine games, also drawing six walks for a .517 on-base percentage over that span.
“You think about team goals and things like that,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, “but there’s no doubt we’re pulling for him. We’re human, and there’s no getting around that.”
His resurgence has only added to the Red Sox offense, which has averaged 6.4 runs during Ortiz’s recent spurt. Boston has won seven of nine to move two games ahead of the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Dustin Pedroia(notes) went 2 for 5 on Tuesday to snap his 2-for-29 slump, helping to end Florida’s three-game winning streak. A win Wednesday would ensure Boston’s seventh straight series victory against the Marlins (32-34).
After scoring 24 runs during a three-game sweep at Toronto over the weekend, Florida’s bats cooled at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox are 22-8 - the best home record in the majors.
Although Penny (5-2, 5.32 ERA) has been solid lately, turning in six shutout innings against the Yankees on Thursday, his future in the rotation is murky with John Smoltz(notes) set to return from the disabled list next week.
Penny has been the subject of trade rumors, but Francona has said he could go with a six-man rotation at least temporarily.
“That wouldn’t be the worst thing for a short period of time,” the manager said.
Penny pitched for Florida for most of his first five seasons, winning two games in the World Series during the Marlins’ championship run in 2003. He was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the trade deadline in 2004, and the Red Sox signed him as a free agent this year.
As a member of the Dodgers, the right-hander struggled in his first two outings against Florida, but he struck out a career-high 14 in seven shutout innings in his last start versus the Marlins on May 7, 2007, a 6-1 win.
The Marlins will counter with Andrew Miller(notes) (2-2, 4.30). The former Detroit left-hander faced Boston once while he was in the AL, allowing three hits and one run in seven innings of a 9-2 win July 6, 2007.
Miller left Thursday’s game against St. Louis in position for a second straight victory after striking out eight and allowing three runs without a walk in 6 1-3 innings, but the bullpen blew the lead in a 6-5 defeat.