It’s sad, really. For five years, David Ortiz was one half of the most feared tandem in baseball, a power hitter who pitchers avoided. He hit 54 home runs in 2006, had at least 137 RBI for three years in a row, and was named the best clutch hitter in the history of the Boston Red Sox. Now he is the guy that pitchers hope come up when they are in a tight spot, the guaranteed out, the weakest link. It’s sad to see.
Last night’s game was a huge positive for the Red Sox. They got 8 solid innings from Lester, who seems to be rounding into form, a great defensive play from Pedroia, made no errors (seriously, for a team that was built to play defense, games without errors seem like no hitters this year), and got enough offense to get the win. Hermida’s clutch double (luck) continued his string of timely hits, and Lowell added yet another double, his fifth hit in a row, four of them doubles. They have now won two in a row and are just a game short of .500, and that is without two of their starting outfielders.
But then there’s the artist formerly known as Big Papi. He is now hitting .154, with three home runs and 6 RBI. He approached the plate four times last night, walking away sadly after striking out twice and hitting into two double plays. The second of those, of course, was the real stomach punch. Bases loaded, nobody out and Ortiz gives all of Red Sox Nation a stomach punch by hitting directly into the shift for an unproductive 4-2-3 double play. I wasn’t even really hoping for a hit, just a productive out. Hell, even if he had hit into another type of double play the run could have score. If Juan Rivera wasn’t a completely inept leftfielder and had caught Hermida’s very catchable ball, we might not even have the positive of a win to temper the disappointment in our former idol. He has become Jason Varitek of September 2008, hitting into double plays, striking out and otherwise turning potential big innings into great big shitburgers like it is what he was getting paid to do.
To add insult to injury, the guy who everybody wants to replace him, and already has against left handers, continued to be red hot, doubling again to score Hermida right after. Mike Lowell, who has shown not only class in this situation, but the ability to thrive, hitting .317 with a .903 OPS. He also has five hits in his last five at bats.
Right now, my inclination is to let Ortiz work it out. He may be driving me to want to punch babies, but we can never boo the guy, after all he has done for us. Last year he was just a little better at this point and then had the best final four months of the season in the AL. His teammates have his back, as evidenced by Dustin Pedroia’s comments after the game, and Tito is notoriously loyal to his players (and he knows more about his team than you do), so they’re probably going to let this one ride for a while.
If Lowell keeps tearing the cover off the ball though, the end of the month might have people singing a different tune.
Enjoy Cinco De Nomar.