After I wrote my post about Papi's improvement during the homestand, I ran across an article that reinforced the cautiousness I'd felt about declaring The Great Slump of Aught Nine officially over -- by Rich Levine for Comcast Sportsnet, which pointed out Papi's numbers remained pretty ugly on the road. Still another obstacle to clear for him to be completely out of the woods.
So it's not just the way he took that bat and slashed it with reassuring authority through the zone, obliterating a changeup from Craig Stammen into right center. Not just the fact that Papi, still looking like his old self, hit a towering multi-run homer and went Cadillacking around the bases for his seventh homer of the season, and sixth in the month of June.
It's that he did it on the road.
This homer was also notable regardless of the slump that's been giving everyone agita for the last two months (and really, watching him round the bases tonight, I even wondered for a moment if maybe we'd over-reacted. Then I went to look back at his monthly totals--and you can see it as you scroll down the page of dates, a desert of zeroes finally giving way to a few crooked numbers, how truly bad it has been). It also finally put Papi over 1000 RBI for his career, and he's now one homer shy of 300.
Another nice sign: Dustin Pedroia, who had been struggling in the leadoff spot, has gone 5 for 10 in this series so far, with three doubles. The idea of putting him in the leadoff spot was to "balance the lineup" according to Tito. "You have Pedey and J.D. getting on all over the place. At least that's the idea." That last part would seem the key phrase, and two games isn't enough to declare things turned around, but if he does, maybe it's just the way Pedroia is -- he takes a little while to figure things out, and then he rakes.
Jacoby Ellsbury, meanwhile, is clearly not of this Earth. That's the only explanation.