Ortiz reaches milestone with No. 400

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Ortiz reaches milestone with No. 400

OAKLAND -- In a perfect world, David Ortiz would have been able to celebrate his 400th career homer in style, following a Red Sox victory.
But wins have been in short supply for the Sox, who finished a seven-game road trip to the West Coast Wednesday with a dispiriting 3-2 loss to the Oakland, taking some of the shine off the achievement.
"It was in a good situation, tied the game,'' recounted Ortiz of the solo shot to right to lead off the fourth inning off A.J. Griffin.
But in the moment, Ortiz couldn't find much joy in the honor, even if he became only the eighth active player to reach the milestone and moved him into 49th place all-time on the homer list.
"Right now, not really,'' said Ortiz when asked if the homer felt special. "I'm just trying to play the game and try to keep on producing for this ballclub. I'll just try to keep on rolling.''
In time, Ortiz acknowledged, the homer will be appreciated in its proper historical context. But Ortiz, 36, intends to keep playing for several seasons. With the benefit of hindsight, the homer will someday mean more to him.
"I know at some point,'' he said, "when I'm not playing baseball, I might look at it from the outside and be like, 'Whoa -- I guess I had a good career.' But right now, it's just another home run that you put up there.''
There's something about facing the A's that makes for milestone homers for the Red Sox. Ortiz is the third Red Sox player in history to hit No. 400 against the A's. Ted Williams hit his 400th against the Kansas City A's and Carl Yastrzesmki hit No. 400 against Oakland, too.
Ortiz's cell phone was buzzing throughout the afternoon with texts and messages of congratulations from other players in the game. He estimated that he received "30 or 40.''
In his next at-bat following the historic homer, the A's public address announcer pointed out that Ortiz had reached the milestone two innings earlier, earning Ortiz a length ovation from the fans as he tipped his helmet in appreciation.
"That was pretty cool,'' he said of the reception. "You get something like that done on the road and people really appreciate it, it's (nice to get) appreciation.''
When he connected off Griffin, Ortiz had a pretty good idea that No. 400 had arrived. During the seven-game trip, he had hit a handful of balls to the warning track, but understood this one had the distance.
But after going six games without hitting a homer, he wasn't worried.
"To be honest with you, I wasn't worried (about when it was going to come),'' he said. "I was just swinging like a normally do and not trying to do too much.''
His teammates greeted him when he returned to the dugout and shared in the celebration.
"That was awesome,'' gushed Cody Ross. "Everyone was just waiting for it. It seemed like every pitch, he had a chance to do it. Once it went in the air, there was just a sigh for him, especially for him, just to get that weight off his shoulders. I'm just so happy for him and proud of him.
"It's a huge accomplishment.''

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.