BALTIMORE -- David Ortiz is off to a far better start this season than either of his last two seasons. But somewhat lost in that better start is Ortiz's resurgence against left-handed pitching.
Granted, it's a relatively small sample size, but through the first 22 games, Ortiz was hitting a sizzling .360 -- 9-for-25 -- against lefties.
That's quite an upgrade for someone who hit a measly .222 against them last season. But Ortiz isn't terribly surprised by his start, noting that, over the course of his career, he's actually hit lefties relatively well (.259 lifetime).
"I'm just trying to be more patient,'' said Ortiz before taking batting practice Wednesday afternoon. "I watch my video and I saw that it wasn't like they were getting me out; I got myself out much of the time, chasing bad pitches.
"When they bring a lefty in or you're facing a lefty, it's all about not chasing bad pitches. I'm just trying to be more patient because I know I've been hitting lefties my whole life. But it gets to the point where you don't pay attention to it and the next thing you know, it's haunting you.''
Ortiz fell into a hole early against lefties last year, and, desperate to show that he belonged in the lineup against them, started trying to do too much. The harder he tried, the more he chased pitches out of the strike zone, playing into opponents hands.
"I wanted to show everyone,'' recalled Ortiz, "but they weren't even giving me stuff to hit. When pitchers see that you're not chasing those sliders in the dirt or the two-seamer in the dirt, they figure 'That's not working anymore; I've got to either throw strikes or walk him.'
"This year, I've been taking my walks. (Seven in 32 plate appearances against lefties, compared to eight in 53 plate appearances against righties.) I tried to wait for a pitch I can hit and not try to pull everything. I had been walking away from my game the last few years because I was trying to do too much against them.''
Before he returned to the Red Sox on a one-year option last fall, manager Terry Francona warned Ortiz that he might sit against some lefties if he didn't perform better. Ortiz accepted that, but wanted a concession from Francona -- if he hit better against them, he could stay in the lineup more often.
To date, Francona has been true to his word. With Ortiz off to a better start, Ortiz has been out of the starting lineup just twice in the first 22 games. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have faced nearly as many lefty starters (10) as righties (12).
"At one point (in the offseason),'' said Ortiz, "I said to myself: 'You've hit lefties before; what is it you're not doing that you used to?' I figured out that I was chasing their pitches and getting away from my game. I went out there trying to show the whole world that I can hit lefties, but they weren't giving me anything to hit.'
Josh Beckett seemed to have plenty on his mind when he stared down Luke Scott in the fourth inning. But hours later, he bristled when asked by reporters about the incident.
Scott flipped his bat after crushing a pitch from Beckett some 423 feet, over everything in right field. As he rounded the bases, Beckett followed him with his eyes and seemed to be yelling at the Baltimore outfielder.
"Not my deal,'' shrugged Beckett initially when asked about Scott's reaction.
Asked if he was upset with Scott's reaction, Beckett said: "Those things have a way of working themselves out.''
An angry Beckett could be seen demanding a new ball from the umpire after Scott's homer. He then had an animated conversation with home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth as he left the mound following the third out.
Asked what he said to Culbreth, Beckett snapped: "Is this TMZ? I thought we were talking about a baseball game. We want to know about bat flips and talking to umpires. Why don't we just stick to the game?''
Terry Francona, asked about the Beckett-Scott flareup, said he didn't notice much.
"I don't watch that,'' said Francona. "Our guys flip their bats some times, too.''
On another night, Kevin Youkilis might have been the hero. But Wednesday night, he was more like a footnote.
Youkilis homered to left with two on in the eighth off Koji Uehara, helping the Sox erase what had been a 4-0 Orioles lead.
"I was just looking for a fastball to drive,'' recounted Youkilis, "I got one at 2-and-0 and just missed it. Then I was fortunate enough to get one up in the zone that I could hit out there to left-center field. But in the end it didn't matter because we lost the game.''
The homer was Youkilis's fifth homer of the season, but only the second three-run homer the Sox have hit in 23 games.
"We just haven't clicked on all cylinders yet,'' said Youkilis. "This team has a lot of great hitters that aren't where they should be. That's the greatest thing we have going for us right now. We have hitters that are .300, .290 hitters that aren't hitting there. That means a lot of balls are going to fall in that haven't fallen in.''