Hitting a round tripper on Opening Day, like hitting one in the World Series or an All-Star Game, is not considered unusual, but doing it more than once is noteworthy in some respects. In the ninth inning of Tuesday afternoon’s 6-2 win for Boston over Cleveland, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hit what proved to be his fifth career home run on Opening Day, his third with the Red Sox after hitting two with the Minnesota Twins earlier in his career. After what was a quiet spring (4-for-35 with three extra base hits), the sight of him launching one into the bleachers was a welcome sight to Red Sox fans looking for a positive start to the 2016 season.
The home run also proved to be number 504 in Big Papi’s career, which ties him with Eddie Murray for 26th all-time in MLB history. After Murray, his next target on the all-time list would be Gary Sheffield (509), followed by Mel Ott (511), Ernie Banks (512) and Eddie Matthews (also 512). He now also has 446 home runs with the Red Sox, which puts him six behind Carl Yastrzemski for second place (452) and well behind Ted Williams with 521, whom he has a chance to catch only in the career total category.
Should David Ortiz appear tonight for the Red Sox against the Yankees at Fenway Park as the designated hitter, and by all accounts he will, he will set a new Major League Baseball record for most appearances as a DH with 1644 games, surpassing former slugger Harold Baines. Ortiz already holds the record for most starts in league history by a DH with 1625, well ahead of Baines at 1565 starts.
Big Papi is far and away the leader in most offensive categories as a designated hitter: most plate appearances (7188), most hits (1779), most doubles (450), most home runs (385), and most RBI (1256). Counting only players with at least 2000 plate appearances as a DH, his OPS of .941 ranks second to Edgar Martinez (.959).
On Wednesday afternoon in Oakland, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hit career home run number 400, making him the 49th player in MLB history to reach this milestone. It was also his 342nd home run in a Boston uniform, which ranks him fifth all-time in team history behind Ted Williams (521), Carl Yastrzemski (452), Jim Rice (382), and Dwight Evans (379). “Big Papi” also ranks second behind Manny Ramirez in number of at-bats per home run at 14.7, just ahead of Jimmie Foxx and Williams.
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis strung together 135 errorless games and 1,094 errorless innings at first base during the 2007 regular season for a fielding percentage of 1.000, a feat of perfection that has been duplicated only once before in major league history. He has also played 190 consecutive errorless games in the regular season at first base, three shy of Steve Garvey’s major league record, and has easily surpassed the old Red Sox record (120 games by Stuffy McInnis) and American League record (178 games by Mike Hegan). For his efforts, American League managers and coaches last week honored the four-year veteran his first Rawlings Gold Glove award, one year after making the full-time switch from the third base position where he was raised as a professional player. He is the first Red Sox player to earn the honor since teammate Jason Varitek won the honor at the catcher’s position in 2005 and only the second Red Sox first baseman to be recognized, the other being George Scott, who won it three times between 1967 and 1971.
Since the awards were first handed out in 1957, 16 Red Sox players have captured the honor a total of 36 times. The first year the awards were given, only one award was made for both leagues, and Frank Malzone won the inaugural honor at third base. Five Boston players have won the award multiple times, with former outfielder Dwight Evans holding the team record with eight Gold Gloves won between 1976 and 1985 and Carl Yastrzemski capturing seven in his 23 seasons with the club. Nine times, the Red Sox have had more than one honoree in the same season; twice they have had three. Yastrzemski, Scott, and outfielder Reggie Smith all won at their positions in 1968 and Evans, outfielder Fred Lynn, and shortstop Rick Burleson each capture the honor in 1979. The last time the Sox had more than one winner in a single season came in 1990, when pitcher Mike Boddicker, the only Boston player to ever win a Gold Glove as a pitcher, and outfielder Ellis Burks both won. Gold Gloves have been at a premium for Boston players since averaging better than one per season between 1957 and 1985; catcher Tony Pena in 1991 had been the last Red Sox player to capture the defensive honor before Varitek ended a 14-year drought in 2005, giving the team a total of just five awards in the last 22 seasons.
With the Boston Red Sox facing elimination from the American League Championship Series, down three games to one to the Cleveland Indians, Red Sox fans can take solace in the fact that Boston has a recent history of coming back to win when facing early deficits in playoff series. In 1999, the club faced quick elimination from post-season play when they fell behind two games to none in a best-of-five divisional series with the Indians, but the Sox bounced back with two wins at home and won the series finale 12-8 behind two home runs from Troy O’Leary and a memorable relief effort from Pedro Martinez. Four years later in 2003, Boston also fell behind the Oakland Athletics 2-0 in their divisional match-up, but two wins at Fenway Park sent the series back west for the finale, where a three-run home run by Manny Ramirez, seven strong innings from Martinez, and a save by Derek Lowe gave Boston a 4-3 win in the deciding game.
Boston is also one of ten teams in post-season history to climb back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the series. In 1986, the Sox were one out away from losing to the California Angels in the American League Championship Series when Dave Henderson’s two-run home run to left field at Angel Stadium gave Boston a temporary one-run cushion; the Red Sox would eventually win the game 7-6 in extra innings to force the series back to the East Coast. There, perhaps still stunned by the turn of events in Game Five, the Angels easily crumbled under the sodium lights at Fenway Park as Boston won Game Six 10-4 and then took Game Seven 8-1 behind a strong effort by Roger Clemens and home runs by Dwight Evans and Jim Rice to win the pennant. Boston also accomplished the same feat 18 years later in one of the most memorable comebacks in league history. Against the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Red Sox found themselves down three games to none after getting trounced 19-8 in Game Three at Fenway Park, but Boston won two extra-inning affairs in Games Four and Five to send the series back to New York. After winning Game Six to force a winner-take-all finale, the Red Sox completed the first-ever comeback from a 3-0 post-season series deficit in Major League Baseball with an easy 10-3 win over a shell-shocked New York ball club, with former Boston outfielder Johnny Damon hitting two home runs and driving home six in the effort.