David Ortiz hits two homers, drives in six as Red Sox drub the Twins

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Even at the age of 37 and less than a year separated from an Achilles injury, David Ortiz can still hit with the best of them. The slugger entered tonight’s game against the Twins with a .999 OPS, including five home runs and 23 RBI in 98 trips to the plate. Since joining the club on April 20 after a stint on the 15-day DL, Ortiz has been his team’s best and most consistent source of offense, which is saying a lot considering their options — Dustin Pedroia, for instance, has a .438 on-base percentage.

Ortiz hit two more home runs tonight: a three-run shot against Twins starter Scott Diamond in the first inning, and a two-run shot against reliever Anthony Swarzak in the seventh. He finished the night with three hits, a walk, and six RBI as the Red Sox won 12-5. Pedro Ciriaco was the only member of the lineup not to log a hit. At the time of Ortiz’s homer in the seventh, the Sox were clutching tightly their 7-5 lead, but were finally allowed to breathe a sigh of relief with the added insurance provided by the tenured slugger.

Recently in the news for the wrong reasons thanks to Dan Shaughnessy, you have to imagine his recent offensive tear — he went 3-for-5 yesterday — tastes extra sweet.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.