BOSTON -- The Red Sox certainly hoped David Ortiz would be a force in his return from the disabled list, but nobody could have expected him to hit .500 (12-for-24) in his first six regular-season games since last August. And he smacked his second homer in as many nights on Friday.
"Against left-handers, he's let the ball travel deep," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He's hit the ball the other way. You know, he's a very good hitter. I don't mean to be at a loss for words here. I'm not trying to dissect it and explain it. It's incredible the production he's had in a short amount of time."
Though Ortiz will likely never match the production he had from 2004-07, he appears to be a better all-around hitter than he was in 2009-10.
"I've been working just to stay short and quick to the ball and not try to do too much," said Ortiz. "I always tell you guys, I'm old enough to know what it takes for me to be what I want to be, and that's pretty much it."
Without question, he has had a late-career resurgence. Last season, Ortiz was hitting .318 with 23 homers before suffering the right Achilles injury in mid-July.
Farrell had to game plan against Ortiz while managing the Blue Jays the last two seasons.
"And across the field, you saw him with more of a willingness to use the wall and to stay inside of pitches," said Farrell. "I think it's allowed him to see the ball better and track the ball longer and maybe, in my own description, say he's not afraid to get jammed. He's not afraid to let the ball get deep and he's so strong, he can fight base hits off the other way.
"When he gets a hanging breaking ball or a fastball that stays in the middle of the plate, he does what he did last night. It's remarkable what he's been able to do, given all of the conditions with which he's come back to."
Though some players find it hard to integrate themselves back into the mix during the season, Ortiz actually felt there was less pressure.
"Actually, it's even better when you join the lineup where everybody's swinging the bat pretty good," Ortiz said. "It's just less pressure."
Victorino could be out until Tuesday with back spasms
BOSTON -- Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino was out of the lineup Friday night against the Astros, marking the fourth game he's missed due to lower back spasms. Victorino exited two other games early because of the ailment.
It's possible he won't play until Tuesday, when the Red Sox open a road trip in Toronto.
"It's a real possibility," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "But how he feels is going to be the single most important thing in this."
How did Victorino feel on Friday?
"Improved over yesterday," Farrell said. "He still has some spasms in the lower back so he's day to day but unavailable today."
At this point, the club is still hopeful Victorino won't have to go on the disabled list.
"It will be based on how he continues to improve day after day and responds to the treatment. We're not any closer today to saying this is a DL situation," Farrell said.
Jonny Gomes batted in Victorino's No. 2 spot in the batting order Friday night and played left field. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI single. Daniel Nava got the start in right and was 0-for-4.
First-place stretch a first in Red Sox history
BOSTON -- The Red Sox have had better starts than the 15-7 record they took into Friday night's game against the Astros. Still, the opening to the season is history-making.
According to research from the Red Sox public relations department, this marks the first time in team history Boston has been in first place for the first 26 days of the season.
Manager John Farrell is trying to take the fast start in stride, hoping the team will continue the approach that has led to it.
"You prepare for all of Spring Training trying to get off to a good start," Farrell said. "I don't know that you look at place in the standings as the goal. You look at every area of the game and every area of your team how you can best prepare it and make adjustments where needed.
"I think the fact that we have played good baseball certainly breeds the overall confidence of the group that's downstairs. I think in every phase of the game we've been able to do some things well and we've been very consistent when you look at what we've been able to do from the mound and certainly defensively.
"I don't want to undersell the importance of a good start, but I don't know that you start to target number of wins or place in the standings. Those are a byproduct of what you can control in the other areas of the game."
• Reliever Joel Hanrahan started his Minor League rehab assignment on Friday for Triple-A Pawtucket, giving up two hits and two runs over an inning in a game played at Buffalo. Hanrahan retired the first two batters he faced before giving up a double and a two-run homer.
• Lefty Craig Breslow will make his second appearance in his Minor League rehab assignment when he pitches for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday. Breslow hopes to improve off his first outing at Double-A Portland, when he didn't record any outs.
• Slumping shortstop Stephen Drew (.119) was out of the lineup for Friday's game, as Pedro Ciriaco made the start against Houston lefty Erik Bedard.