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Big Papi leads Boston

September 24, 2009

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— Big Papi is getting big hits again and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Boston Red Sox.

David Ortiz homered and drove in four runs, and Josh Beckett allowed two runs over six innings to lift the Red Sox to a 9-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals Wednesday night.

Hitting so poorly early in the season that people questioned his eyesight, Ortiz is back is back to blasting balls out of the ballpark as the Red Sox move closer to the postseason. Despite a measly .234 average, Big Papi has a respectable 25 homers and 88 RBIs — just as manager Terry Francona predicted back in May.

“I remember saying look up in the end, his batting average is going to be lower and he has to live with that,” Francona said. “As long as he doesn’t walk to the plate looking at that, he’ll be OK. That’s what has happened.”

Ortiz drove in one run with a single in Boston’s six-run fifth inning, then added a three-run homer off Carlos Rosa to give the Red Sox three players with 25 homers in the same season for the first time since 2003.

Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury each drove in two runs and Beckett (16-6) limited the damage from 12 hits with seven strikeouts, giving Boston 90 wins for the third straight season.

“Everything’s based on results this time of year,” Beckett said. “That’s just the way you have to look at it.

The difference for the Royals came down to a few pitches. Boston took advantage of its chances against Hochevar, Kansas City didn’t against Beckett.

Yuniesky Betancourt had a run-scoring triple among his three hits, and Mitch Maier also had three hits, but the Royals stranded 12 runners to see their six-game home winning streak end.

“It’s just a matter of making pitches in key situations,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “Unfortunately, when you’re facing a lineup like that and when you miss even by a little bit, it comes back to bite you.”

Wanting to get more pop in the lineup, Francona had Victor Martinez behind the plate instead of Beckett’s usual battery mate, Jason Varitek. He tried it once before and it didn’t work out too well: Beckett allowed seven earned runs in 5 1⁄3 innings against Toronto on Aug. 18.

Francona was willing to try it again with Varitek struggling — .156, one homer since the All-Star break — and Martinez on a career-best 21-game hitting streak.

Martinez did his part with the bat, extending his hitting streak with a single in the fifth inning. He wasn’t bad behind the plate, either, helping guide Beckett through some shaky moments.

The right-hander had trouble from the start, allowing two runners in each of the first three innings.

Beckett wriggled out of those jams, then gave up two runs in the fourth on Betancourt’s triple and a flare RBI single to right by David DeJesus.

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