Napoli's four-RBI night powers Sox past O's
Papi drills two-run homer; Lackey yields two runs, fans six batters
BALTIMORE -- These were the Red Sox on Wednesday night -- the team that won the World Series last year, the team that was recognized by President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
Unlike Opening Day, when the Sox bats were held mostly silent, there was timely thump en route to a 6-2 victory over the Orioles.
"We're just trying to have some good at-bats and get on base for the guys behind me," said Dustin Pedroia following a 4-for-5 performance. "We didn't score many that first game. We did a good job today grinding out at-bats, getting on and scoring some runs."
David Ortiz, fresh off his selfie with President Obama, clubbed a two-run shot. So, too, did Mike Napoli, a day after Obama applauded his efforts while humorously mispronouncing his last name.
"I thought the top four guys in our lineup had a very good night, particularly Pedey and Nap," said manager John Farrell. "Big nights for both of those guys."
And a big swing by Ortiz, who swatted career homer No. 432 to pass Cal Ripken Jr. and move into 45th on the all-time list.
"I was tied with the Iron Man? That's crazy," said Ortiz. "You're talking about a man that never misses a game. It's always an honor to be mentioned with that caliber of a player."
And John Lackey, who was last seen beating the Cardinals in the World Series clincher, picked up right where he left off.
The big righty was sharp in his first start of 2014, holding the Orioles to three hits and two runs over six innings. Lackey walked one and struck out six while pitching at a crisp pace.
"I always try to work pretty quick, especially when you're throwing strikes and feeling pretty good about it," said Lackey. "A.J. [Pierzynski] called a great game. That helps a lot with tempo when you don't really have to think too much about what pitch you want to throw. When he's throwing down the one you're looking for, things kind of roll pretty good."
The bullpen, so reliable with the lead last year, looked familiarly effective in this one. The first pitcher out was the new guy, righty Edward Mujica, who fired a scoreless seventh.
Junichi Tazawa took care of the eighth and handed off to closer Koji Uehara, who finished off the victory in a non-save situation.
"I think the biggest thing we know about those guys coming into the season is they're going to throw strikes, which they continue to do," said Farrell. "It was good to get Mujica to the mound for the first time and Koji obviously, and Taz has become so reliable with his strike throwing and power stuff."
Ortiz got the Red Sox in gear in the third when he hit a towering two-run homer to right to break the scoreless tie. Pedroia, who was in the middle of everything all night, started the rally with a single to left.
The lead held up until the fourth, when Nelson Cruz victimized Boston for the second straight game, this time with a two-run shot to right that tied the game at 2.
"I threw a bunch of heaters," said Lackey. "I played a bit of country hardball there for the first three innings. After that, I started mixing in some stuff. I made the one mistake and felt pretty good overall."
But yet again, the contest swung on a two-run homer, this time from Napoli. The slugger obliterated an 0-2 pitch to dead center with two outs in the fifth, making it 4-2, Boston.
Napoli has talked a lot about trying to improve his two-strike approach. Last year, he didn't hit any homers on an 0-2 pitch. This one, he crushed.
"In that situation, I'm just trying to shorten up and put the ball in play. I take an aggressive swing always," said Napoli. "I got a pitch I could handle and just put a good swing on it."
Making his first start for the Orioles, Ubaldo Jimenez gave up five hits and four runs over six innings, walking three and striking out six.
It wasn't good enough to match Lackey.
"He threw strikes and located," said Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. "He was able to sort of cut the ball in and out. He located all night. It seemed like we were down 0-2 before we could get a pitch over the middle to hit."
After being a victim of low run support last year, Lackey got plenty of offense at his back in this one, not that he's worried about it.
"I'm not going to the Hall of Fame, fellas," said Lackey. "I don't really care about wins. I'm going out there to try to help the boys win. I don't think I'm getting to 300."
With Ryan Webb on in relief in the seventh, the Red Sox went on the attack again. Daniel Nava got things started with a one-out single. Pedroia followed with an infield hit in which third baseman Ryan Flaherty made an error, pushing runners to second and third.
That led O's manager Buck Showalter to issue an intentional walk to Ortiz. Napoli capitalized, drilling a line single to left to open Boston's lead up to 6-2.
Napoli can't blame any manager for bypassing Ortiz to face him. But he also plans on coming through in those situations, as he did so many times last year.
"We'll take our chances," said Pedroia. "We love when Nap is up with guys on. It's part of the game. Nap understands that. He loves being in those situations. We're always confident."
And nobody is more confident than Ortiz, who swings for the fences with the same comfort as posing with the president.
"Like I said, taking a picture with the president is something you don't see happening every day," said Ortiz.
But a moonshot from Ortiz? That is something baseball followers have become accustomed to.