Sometime in the last couple of weeks, maybe they’ve been out of luck, out of sorts, out of whack, out of time, out of money (on second thought, scratch that last one).
But simply out? Not a chance.
And until somebody in the opposing dugout figures out a way to get out David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez - if not both of ‘em, at least one of ‘em - this 2007 postseason will be over and out, flying by in a Boston minute.
No one this side of T-ball gets on base with the regularity that Ortiz and Ramirez have this October, a trend that continued in a shockingly easy 10-3 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series before 36,986 in Fenway Park last night. Both reached base five times in five plate appearances - four times apiece in the first six innings, by which time the Sox held an eight-run lead, C.C. Sabathia was C.C. see-ya-later, and Josh Beckett was enjoying an early exit of his own volition, one that could prove fortuitous if the Sox need him to pitch on short rest in Game 4.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, who knocked in three runs with a two-run double and sacrifice fly. “They’re unbelievable. They’re aggressive, they’re patient, they’re picking their spots, and it doesn’t seem like it’s just one thing. It’s great for me, because they’re always on base.”
Ortiz has reached base 16 times (7 hits, 8 walks, 1 hit by pitch) in 18 plate appearances in four postseason games. He’s averaging four times on base per game. Ramirez has been on base 13 times (5 hits, 8 walks) in 18 appearances.
“Video games, you can program to do whatever you want,” said injured reliever Brendan Donnelly, whose official capacity is professional observer/cheerleader. “These guys are doing it in real life.
“But give a lot of credit to Mike Lowell. Whether these guys are getting on base via a hit or a walk, you’ve still got Mike Lowell to deal with. And that’s where Mike Lowell has been big for us all year. You may walk a tightrope and pitch around those two, but you can’t pitch around three.”
Ortiz and Ramirez both singled in the first, Ramirez driving home Kevin Youkilis with Boston’s first run, which erased the 1-0 advantage Cleveland had gained on Travis Hafner’s home run over the visitors’ bullpen.
Ortiz was hit by a pitch (more blouse than beef), and Ramirez, after falling behind, 0 and 2, walked in the third, when the Sox sent nine men to the plate and scored four times off Sabathia, whose Cy Young Award pedigree took a header on a night he gave up more runs (8 earned in 4 1/3 innings) than in any other start this season.
“I told Manny, he was 0 and 2 twice, and he was able to spit on those pitches, those tough pitches, and draws a walk,” Lowell said. “I told him, `Are you just fouling balls off to mess around, or what?”’
Sabathia during the regular season struck out 209 batters and walked just 37. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 5.65-1. Since 1901, Randy Johnson is the only lefthander to post a better ratio (6.59-1 with Arizona in 2004). But after walking five in 4 1/3 innings last night, on top of six walks in five innings in his Game 1 start against the Yankees in the Division Series, Sabathia has walked more batters in two postseason starts (11) than he did in any month during the regular season.
“I think sometimes with C.C., his heart gets in the way,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “He tries to do a little too much.”
When he had Ramirez, 0 and 2, in the third, Sabathia missed with four consecutive sliders, bouncing the first two. “I guess tonight C.C. was a little wild,” Ortiz said. “You don’t get to see C.C. being wild like that too much, so you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Ortiz walked and Ramirez singled in the fifth, when the Sox scored three times to make it 8-1. By then, the Indians were already lighting candles for their other 19-game winner, Fausto Carmona, who will face Curt Schilling tonight in hopes that they can return to Cleveland with a split.
The Indians, who disposed of the Yankees in four games in their Division Series, suffered through a night in which the only time the bases were clear of Sox players was when the grounds crew swept the infield midgame. Every starter in the Sox lineup reached base safely at least once, including Bobby Kielty, who rewarded manager Terry Francona’s decision to start him in right with a two-run single in the fifth that knocked out Sabathia.
The Sox walked eight times, a club record in LCS play; they’ve walked 24 times in four postseason games.
“I thought our approach was really, really professional,” Francona said. “We didn’t pull the ball, we didn’t try to pull the ball. And we didn’t swing at balls.”
The Sox, who outscored the Angels by a composite 19-4, go into tonight having outscored their playoff opponents, 29-7. When Ortiz doubled off Joe Borowski to open the eighth, that made eight consecutive times he’d reached base.
Beckett didn’t need to throw another shutout, as he’d done in his previous two postseason outings. He set down 10 in a row until he hit Ryan Garko to open the fifth. He gave up another run in the sixth, when Casey Blake doubled and Asdrubal Cabrera singled him home.
Can the Sox play any better?
“Come on,” Ortiz said, “better than that?” He paused.
“Probably, but let’s keep it that way.”