BOSTON — David Ortiz turned a warmer than expected April into an incredibly hot start.
Ortiz finished the best April of his career with a pair of solo homers, Mike Aviles hit a three-run shot and the Boston Red Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 11-6 on Monday night.
His reason was a simple one.
“With this weather, yes,” Ortiz said, without hesitation when asked if it’s the best he’s felt this early into a season. “You try to work on something you haven’t done in five months.”
Darnell McDonald had a two-run homer and Marlon Byrd drove in a pair of runs to support a decent start by Clay Buchholz, who held Oakland to one run until he gave up five in his last inning.
But it’s Ortiz’s torrid start that’s helped carry Boston’s offense. He hit .405 in April with six homers and 20 RBIs, posting a .543 average in Fenway Park (19 for 35).
“David’s the star of star’s right now,” Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. “He’s hitting to all fields. It’s hard to get a strike by him. The swing is probably as good as it can get.”
It was Boston’s seventh win in eight games, coming off a 6-1 road trip.
Former Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick hit a three-run homer for offensively challenged Oakland, which dropped its third straight. The A’s entered the day having scored the majors’ second fewest runs (67) behind only Pittsburgh’s 46.
When the Red Sox left town after their initial homestand of the season, they were on a five-game losing streak and had just blown a 9-0 lead in a loss to the rival Yankees.
Boy, how things changed.
Boston charged through Minnesota and Chicago, only losing the finale of a four-game series against the White Sox and returned to Fenway looking like a team that was expected to be strong in the AL East.
On Monday, they knocked around A’s starter Tommy Milone (3-2) for eight runs — seven earned — in 4 2-3 innings en route to an 11-1 lead after five innings.
Milone had retired 22 of the 26 lefties he faced until Ortiz homered leading off the second, the first of two he gave up to the big slugger.
“Both fastballs,” he said. “They were supposed to be a little more in than they were. But, you know, caught too much of the plate and obviously a good hitter like that is going to hit those pitches.”
After the big lead, the Red Sox almost reverted to that ugly loss against the Yankees before Vicente Padilla escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Daric Barton in the seventh. Reddick bounced into an inning-ending double play with the bases-loaded in the eighth.
Buchholz (3-1) gave up six runs on seven hits, walking five and striking out five in 6 2-3 innings.
Oakland cut it to 11-6 in the seventh, with Coco Crisp getting a two-run single before Reddick hit his homer.
Milone, who had a pair of eight-inning scoreless outings in his first four starts, had given up only six total runs in his previous starts.
Trailing 1-0, the Red Sox scored four in the second. Ortiz, in his 15th season, led off with a homer into the A’s bullpen, Byrd and Aviles had RBI singles, with Aviles later scoring on second baseman Jemile Week’s throwing error.
McDonald homered off a light-tower in left-center to make it 6-1 in the third.
The Red Sox then chased Milone during a five-run fifth. Ortiz homered into the Red Sox bullpen to make it 7-1, a drive that right fielder Reddick made a leaping attempt on, and had the ball tip off his glove before he fell into the pen. A member of the Red Sox picked up his hat and handed it to him before he hopped back onto the field.
“That’s actually the first time I’ve had a chance to rob one,” he said. “I’ve done it 1,000 times in batting practice and never had it in a game.”
Byrd had an RBI double against reliever Jordan Norberto and Aviles hit his three-run homer into the Green Monster seats to make it 11-1.
The A’s had taken a 1-0 lead in the second when Kurt Suzuki scored from third as the Red Sox caught Barton in a rundown.
NOTES: It was Ortiz’s 38th career multihomer game, 36th with Boston. He’s one behind Ted Williams for most in club history. … Red Sox 3B Kevin Youkilis was a late scratch with tightness in his lower back. He also missed Sunday’s loss in Chicago with the same injury. … Reddick, traded from the Red Sox in an offseason deal that brought OF Ryan Sweeney and injured closed Andrew Bailey, played his first game against his former team. “I hope I can go out and have a few good games and show my former team what they’re missing,” he said before the game. … Buchholz has now allowed at least five runs in each of his five starts.11
YANKEES 3, ORIOLES 1: Hiroki Kuroda and the New York Yankees blocked off the Baltimore Orioles once again.
Kuroda pitched seven neat innings and teamed with catcher Russell Martin to nab Nick Markakis at the plate in the key play of the game, lifting the Yankees over Baltimore 2-1 Monday night in New York.
Eric Chavez hit an early two-run homer and New York made several sparkling plays in the field, including two by novice left fielder Eduardo Nunez.
But the top gem came on Kuroda’s final pitch.
“It came out right,” Kuroda said through a translator.
Down 2-1 in the seventh, the Orioles used a single, a hit batter and wild pitch to put runners on second and third with two outs. Kuroda bounced a splitter in the dirt and Martin blocked it, with the ball skittering toward Baltimore’s dugout on the third base side.
Markakis broke for the plate, aiming to score the tying run.
“You don’t really have time to think about much,” Martin said. “It’s just reaction.”
Martin quickly recovered and made a backhand flip to Kuroda, who planted his right foot directly in the runner’s path. Markakis had to reach around Kuroda’s leg, and the pitcher’s perfect fundamentals gave him time to make the tag as the Baltimore star tumbled into him.
“I was convinced I was going to get an out if I had a good throw from Russell,” Kuroda said.
Kuroda and Martin met on the mound during the shaky seventh, going over their plans. It was familiar territory for them — they were teammates on the Los Angeles Dodgers for three seasons.
“We had our one opportunity there and couldn’t push that run across,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Nicky made a good aggressive play and they made a heck of a play to get him.”
“They have to make a great play to get him out. I would be upset if he wasn’t aggressive and trying to do something there in a close ballgame like that. Usually, the aggressor wins,” he said.
The Yankees improved 4-0 against the Orioles this year, 43-15 over the O’s since 2009 and have not lost any of the last 14 season series to them.
The loss denied Showalter his 1,000th win as a big league manager — his first victory came in 1992 next door at the old Yankee Stadium. Baltimore lost for the second time in eight games.
Kuroda (2-3) allowed one run and four hits while outpitching steady Jason Hammel (3-1).
David Robertson struck out the side in the eighth for the Yankees and Mariano Rivera closed for his fifth save in six chances. A day after Baltimore rallied for five runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Oakland, there was no comeback against the New York bullpen.
Chavez put New York ahead with his third homer, a drive into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field in the second.
With Nick Swisher hobbling and fellow outfielder Brett Gardner injured, Nunez got his first big league start in left field. He wound up catching five flyballs, matching the most by any Yankees outfielder this season.
Nunez caught Nolan Reimold’s leadoff liner, slid on his knees to pluck Markakis’ liner to end the first and grabbed Chris Davis’ sacrifice fly at the wall in the second. Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi joked that even when he tried Nunez in the outfield during spring training, no balls were hit his way.
“So much for not getting any balls,” Girardi kidded after the game. “He was tested with some tough balls and he did an outstanding job.”
Nunez, who had four different gloves stuffed in his locker, called it a “fun” experience.
“I enjoyed it,” he said.
NOTES: Swisher is expected to miss a week with a strained left hamstring. … Orioles slugger Mark Reynolds went 0 for 3. He has not homered in 63 at-bats this year — this is his first April without a home run. … Reimold’s 14-game hitting streak ended. … Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte gave up six runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings vs. the Phillies in an extended spring training game. He struck out eight, walked none and threw 96 pitches. … Six current MLB managers already have at least 1,000 wins: Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia and Bobby Valentine.