ANAHEIM — Exit velocity and launch angle and home run footage took a night off in Angel Stadium Friday night.
Boston ambushed the Angels with batted balls that never got above the belt.
Six of the first seven Red Sox either doubled or singled. Five of them scored. Chris Sale, the devastating left-hander who passed the 200 strikeout mark for the season, hardly knew what to do with such a surplus. The Angels, the only American League team with an OPS under .700, watched enviously.
It led to a 6-2 Red Sox victory that expanded their AL East lead to four games, with David Price scheduled to pitch Saturday.
“Eight of our first nine hits came when we went the other way,” Manager John Farrell said approvingly.
And Boston’s home run total stayed at 98. Yes, the Red Sox of Rice and Yastrzemski and Ortiz and Ramirez are the only team in the American League that hasn’t reached 100 home runs. Yet they are second in batting average, fifth in runs and third in on-base percentage. Call them the Little Monsters.
“People are asking us a lot about that,” said Chili Davis, Boston’s batting coach. “We have some guys that are capable of hitting the long ball, but the way I look at it, and especially at our place, a lot of pitchers come in and they pitch away from that big wall. Maybe they pitch in a lot, but not at our place. We can’t go out there and get ourselves out, trying to be macho.
“Some pitchers give you singles and doubles, and if we just take those and keep a lot of people on base, maybe we can make them make mistakes. Sometimes that leads to a three-run homer that gives us some cushion.”
Davis played 19 years in the big leagues, seven of them with the Angels in two different rounds. He drove in 112 runs for them in 1993, hit .274 overall with 353 home runs. He was a real-world presence in the clubhouse, with advice for kids like Tim Salmon and J.T. Snow, delivered without sugar.
Davis also delighted in proving people wrong. “Another career year,” he would say after fooling the calendar one more time.
No one who knew Davis’ unsparing honesty could easily picture him in a dugout, post-retirement, but then they all come back in one form or another. Davis taught hitting for the Australian National Team after he quit playing, and then worked as an instructor for the Dodgers. The Red Sox hired him for their Triple-A team, and he has been with the big club for three seasons.
It’s always hard to determine the impact of a hitting coach….