When David Ortiz stepped into the batter’s box during the fourth inning of Friday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox and laced a two-run single, it snapped an 0-for-23 stretch that had forced him to answer questions about a slump for the first time this season.
The single began a return to form by Ortiz, who finished 5 for 9 with three walks and six RBIs in the three-game sweep of the White Sox.
“The 0-for-23 slump, I just think that you guys got used to some good [expletive], you know,” said Ortiz following the Red Sox’ 7-6 win over Chicago Sunday afternoon.
“The minute I stop hitting for about a week, people start going crazy even though I’ve been telling you guys that you don’t need to worry about me,” Ortiz continued.
“Start worrying about me when I go to the plate without a baseball bat.”
Ortiz now is just two hits shy of 2,000 for his career. He’s poised to become the 39th player with 2,000 hits, 400 home runs, and 1,400 RBIs.
Big Papi’s active company on that list would include only the Angels’ Albert Pujols and the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez.
So when Ortiz stepped into the batter’s box in the second inning of Sunday’s game with two outs, the bases loaded, and the Red Sox already leading, 2-0, he knew exactly what he was doing against Chicago rookie righthander Andre Rienzo.
“I went up there with one thing in mind,” said Ortiz, who jumped on the first pitch he saw for a two-run double down the right-field line. “I know that in a situation like that, there’s two things that you can do, you can throw a strike or run away, you know what I’m saying . . . [the pitcher] threw me a strike on the first pitch and I was ready for it and I hit it.’’
Ortiz, who added an RBI single in his next at-bat, finished 2 for 3 with a walk and three RBIs, giving him 85 on the season.
“It’s just been a matter of timing,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, whose squad won for the seventh time in its last eight games to improve to 26 games over .500. “There are some things that [Ortiz has] been working on [before games] and you can kind of pinpoint that two-run base hit the other night as what’s allowed him to relax.”
“He look’s like he’s slowed the ball down a lot,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who walked and stole his first base of the season in the second inning to help set the table for Ortiz’s at-bat. “He looks a lot more comfortable at the plate. It’s unfortunate, a guy like me goes 0 for 23, nobody says anything. A guy like him [does], it’s on USA Today.
“But he’s handled it great. That’s what makes him so good; it’s that he’s able to keep those spurts really short, rather than two, three weeks long.”
Ortiz doesn’t believe it’s coincidental that his slump coincided with him having more time off than usual, a product of the at-bats he lost when the Red Sox were forced to play without a designated hitter in San Francisco and Los Angeles in late August.
“I’m not going to lie to you, that kind of caught me off guard, to play one game in four days,” Ortiz said. “You don’t want that to happen, especially when you’re used to playing every day. [Missing] one day gets you off, believe it or not. Four days, three days, whatever, it gets extremely hard, but it feels good [now].”
Without the use of a designated hitter, Farrell was left with a tough decision on whom to start at first base with Mike Napoli once again swinging a hot bat.
“They don’t have a DH in the National League and they had a whole bunch of lefties pitching that were good and my boy [Napoli] has been swinging pretty good against lefties,” said Ortiz. “So, if I’m the manager, I would take my best chances and I think we did the right thing with Nap out there.
“It was fine. It was what it was, not too much you can do about it.”
Boston once again will be faced with some tough lineup decisions when it travels to a Colorado to take on the Rockies Sept. 24-25. With only three regular-season games remaining after the Rockies series, it would seem a shame if the playoff races were in some way altered by having to sit Ortiz or Napoli.
Asked if he might actually like some rest before this season ending, Ortiz responded:
“What for? I need more rings. I’ve got more fingers.”