Power surge electrifies
Ortiz still putting a charge into ball
When it was mentioned just how well designated hitter David Ortiz was swinging his lefthanded bat, catcher Jason Varitek said, "Ssshhh! Let's not tell anybody that." Ortiz apparently shared the same desire to keep quiet. After sending a home run to left and a home run to right last night against Baltimore, Ortiz ducked out of the locker room without commenting on his performance.
What's another couple of homers long after you have reached career-best territory? Obviously, Ortiz thought Nos. 30 and 31 were not worth talking about, especially since they came in a 7-3 Red Sox loss last night at Fenway Park. But the designated hitter should have known better; there is nothing quiet or secret about Ortiz when he steps into the batter's box.
"All we're looking for out of David Ortiz is to have great at-bats," said Johnny Damon. "And he's been doing it. He's been able to get leverage. Play with that Monster out there. He's got enough pop that this ballpark plays into his game just perfectly."
With an incredible sense of timing and flair for the dramatic, Ortiz has become a fan favorite. There was the walkoff home run in the 10th inning Tuesday night, for example. Ortiz has 16 game-winning RBIs, and 34 of his career-high 100 RBIs have either given the Red Sox the lead or tied a game.
But over the last 31 games, there has been so much more at which to marvel. Like 15 homers and 37 RBIs. Last night, Ortiz posted the eighth two-homer game of his career, his sixth of the season. That made him the seventh Red Sox hitter to record at least six multihomer games in one season. And with his blasts last night, Ortiz has now homered in three straight games four times this season.
"What a great year he's had," said Damon. "We need him to continue to do so. He was splitting time earlier in the season and now he's got 31 home runs and 100 RBIs. That's an accomplishment for any hitter. We need him to continue to do that. We need to find a way to keep him in the lineup come World Series time, too. We might need him to play a little bit of the outfield, depending on Trot [Nixon's] situation [with his injured calf]."
Not bad for a free agent signed in January. Not bad for a player who didn't have a regular spot in the lineup until May 30 after Shea Hillenbrand was dealt for Byung Hyun Kim.
Given the opportunity to play consistently and develop a daily routine, Ortiz did not disappoint. Ortiz hit three homers in his first 50 games (163 at bats); he has 28 in his last 76 games (278 at bats). Also, Ortiz has 67 RBIs in his last 75 games.
"It's great for him and he's a big part of this team," said Varitek. "Let's let him just keep playing and hopefully somebody in our lineup gets just as hot and can carry us for a little while."
Added Nomar Garciaparra: "He's been doing great. He's been swinging the bat well, going out there and coming through."
Few, if any, statements made by manager Grady Little this season were as prophetic as the one he uttered Aug. 24. After watching Ortiz hit his 19th homer of the season, Little said the lefthanded batter "might be fixing to get hot again." It may also have been the biggest understatement uttered by Little in his tenure with the Red Sox.
Last night, Little had this to say about Ortiz. "He is swinging the bat good. He has a lot of confidence right now."
No secret there.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.