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Published: Friday, 7/18/2008

Pawtucket crushes Hens with 5 homers

BY MIKE SCANDURA
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

PAWTUCKET, R.I. - Playing the team with the International League's best record, which also is the team that ranks second in home runs and first in ERA is one thing.

But playing the Pawtucket Red Sox with a "ringer" in their lineup is another.

That was the challenge confronting the Toledo Mud Hens last night at McCoy Stadium as they came out on the short end of a 15-6 score.

Boston's all-star DH, David Ortiz, who's been on the disabled list since June 3 with a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, commenced a rehab assignment by igniting a seven-run, fourth-inning explosion.

Ortiz led off by roping a 1-2 fastball from Virgil Vasquez (6-9) into the visitors' bullpen in right field.

Before the carnage ended, Pawtucket had strafed Vasquez for seven hits, including two-run homers by George Kottaras and Jeff Bailey.

"It was like [Vasquez] got rattled," manager Larry Parrish said. "It was a tight ball game and it was like he didn't want to give up one to Ortiz. When he did, he couldn't get it back mentally."

While Pawtucket raked Toledo pitching for 14 hits, and a total of five home runs, the Mud Hens were stifled by Edgar Martinez (4-1).

Martinez allowed three runs on four hits and two walks and fanned five.

Toledo's Brent Clevlen hit home runs in the seventh and eighth to sandwich the Hens' other seventh-inning runs.

After Clete Thomas singled and Fernando Seguignol walked, Justin Masterson replaced Martinez. Toledo loaded the bases on Erik Almonte's single and Derek Wathan belted a grand slam.

Freddy Guzman's double in the first and his single in the fourth were the only hits Martinez allowed through 61/3 innings as he faced only two batters over the minimum. And to add insult to injury, Martinez picked off Guzman.

Jeremy Johnson, who relieved Vasquez in the fourth - and "retired" Ortiz on a rocket to first base - didn't fare any better as Pawtucket tagged him for seven runs (six earned) on five hits.

Jonathan Van Every's three-run homer highlighted a four-run fifth and Chris Carter's two-run shot in the sixth, after Ortiz drew a leadoff walk, upped Pawtucket's lead to a 13-0.

"They've got some guys in their lineup who can swing the bat," Parrish said. "Van Every's got 24 homers batting ninth. And the same thing with the guy leading off [Bailey]. You never see a leadoff guy and a No. 9 hitter both have 20 homers.

"You're going to have to make good pitches. I thought Vasquez was up the whole game but he got away with some of them because of the shadows in the first three innings. After that, they started hitting that high pitch."

The crowd got Ortiz charged up by chanting "Papi!"

"That's my game," Ortiz said outside the PawSox clubhouse, meeting with reporters in the seventh inning. "It feels good to be able to swing like that after an injury when I couldn't hold onto my bat."

Ortiz popped up to shortstop in his first time up before hitting the homer in the fourth.

"That's exactly what happens at Fenway," Ortiz said. "When they start chanting your name, it pumps you up and puts you in the mood."

The crowd of 11,460 - there are only 10,031 seats at McCoy Stadium - was the fifth-largest in the ballpark's history.

"We could have sold 20,000 tickets to this one," said PawSox spokesman Bill Wanless, who noted that there was extra attention because the Red Sox had the night off and because Ortiz had never played in Pawtucket before, having come up through the minors in the Twins' system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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