Three things we learned from the Red Sox 14-1 win over the Blue Jays Monday night.
1) The bottom half of the order has been the key to the Red Sox' offensive resurgence.
Sure, the David Ortiz Power Show was impressive, especially given that he essentially promised there would be a night like last night - two homers, four RBI -- soon. And there was the continuing magic of Brock Holt at the the top of the lineup, with two hits and two runs scored. And the encouraging sight of Mike Napoli collecting three hits -- all of them from center or right field.
But the key to the 14-run outburst Monday, and indeed, the 8-1 run the Sox now find themselves on, is that they're getting production from the final three or four spots in the lineup.
On Monday, that included a two-hit, four RBI performance from Stephen Drew, who is now 7-for-16. Xander Bogaerts collected his first three-hit game since May 31 while Jackie Bradley continued his surge forward with two hits. Bradley, who just weeks ago was struggling to stay over the .200 mark, is suddenly up to .234.
Finally, there's Christian Vazquez, who though he only had one hit, did knock in two runs.
Together, the final four spots in the order combined for seven runs, eight hits and eight RBI.
Until recently, the Sox lineup was top-heavy, totally dependent on Holt, Ortiz and Napoli to get anything going. If an opposing pitcher could get past Napoli, it was mostly smooth sailing after that. And without homers from Ortiz or Napoli, the Sox were punchless.
Now, they're getting contributions from top-to-bottom, extending innings and making pitchers work. (In the second inning alone, when the Sox began their scoring Monday night, they forced Drew Hutchison to throw 35 pitches in an inning when that began with Napoli and ended with the top of the lineup coming around again.
2) Christian Vazquez has been even better than expected
Vazquez is mostly known for his defense and, of course, his powerful arm, the latter of which can dissuade baserunners from thinking about running on the Red Sox.
But Vazquez has impressed the Sox with his game-calling and ability to frame pitches. He's caught two strong Lackey starts and earned praise from the veteran righty both times.
What the Sox weren't perhaps counting on was the offensive help that Vazquez has supplied. He's knocked in seven runs in his first five games.
In the bigger picture, Vazquez is the first catcher in Red Sox history to go 5-0 in his first five big league games behind the plate. That speaks to the trust he's quickly gained from the pitching staff and his ability to learn quickly.
Only three days ago, John Farrell spoke of his desire to have veteran David Ross in the lineup when the Sox open a series. The thinking was, Ross's know-how, familiarity with the staff and experience would establish a tone for the Sox at the start of a series, while giving Vazquez the opportunity to watch Ross handle the opposing lineup.
But there was Vazquez behind the plate for the series opener Monday, a sure sign of the confidence that Farrell and the coaching staff have in him.
There have been plenty of jokes about the Sox being 8-1 since DFA'ing A.J. Pierzynski, who was the classic case of addition by substraction.
A better look at it, however, might be to recognize what Vazquez has brought in terms of energy, spark and intelligence that belies his relative inexperience.
3) David Ortiz knows what he's talking about
When Ortiz struggled through the three-game series with Kansas City with just one hit -- and what seemed like a dozen groundouts to the right side of the infield -- his average dipped below .250 and he looked lost.
Ortiz, however, wasn't one to panic. Ortiz understood that his timing off a bit at the plate and knew it could be fixed in a hurry. He vowed over the weekend that, regardless of recent at-bats, he would soon be heating up like "Jamaica in the summer.''
On Monday afternoon, he came out to Rogers Centre to work with Victor Rodriguez and regain a rhythm at the plate and told NESN's Gary Striewski that "it feels good to be in Toronto.'' When Striewski asked why, Ortiz reponded: "You'll see.''
That doesn't exactly qualify as calling one's shot, but it's close. And it's another reminder of how Ortiz has a unique understanding of what it takes to be successful, how to fix things when he's off and an appreciation for the Big Moment.