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First things first: Ortiz answered the call

David Ortiz only had one ball come his way during his five innings at first base, but he handled Matt Holliday's ground ball easily for the first out in the fourth inning. David Ortiz only had one ball come his way during his five innings at first base, but he handled Matt Holliday's ground ball easily for the first out in the fourth inning. (BILL GREENE/GLOBE STAFF)

DENVER - Perfectly comfortable and quite accomplished with both hands curled around a stick of flame-tempered hardwood, David Ortiz last night looked equally at ease when toting only a leather mitt on his right hand.

The 31-year-old Ortiz, despite having a right knee that will require off-season cartilage surgery, was designated for assignment in Game 3 of the World Series. The big DH, one of the American League's most potent hitters, played first base and handled his chores flawlessly, including a pair of put outs. One of the put outs was a Matt Holliday roller leading off the fourth that Ortiz scooped up and trotted over to first for the unassisted play.

National League rules, which do not permit the use of a designated hitter, played right into the big man's right hand. Chances are, he'll be back working first base tonight when the Sox attempt to close out the 2007 World Series with a sweep of the stunned, frustrated, and seemingly helpless Rockies.

The Sox have won seven straight World Series games, including their four-game sweep of the Cardinals in '04. In World Series history, 22 teams have fallen into 0-3 deficits, and all 22 have ended the season as runners-up.

"It looks like we're in groundbreaking territory," said Rockies skipper Clint Hurdle, refusing to face the awesome task of needing to run the table against the AL champs.

As for Ortiz's night at the plate, he sandwiched a run-scoring double into a 1-for-4 night that included a pair of strikeouts and an infield rollout. His hit, a liner to right, came in the midst of Boston's six-run third inning that had the look and feel of a championship-clinching inning. With two men on and none out, Ortiz pulled a Josh Fogg fastball to right field, and in from third base skipped Jacoby Ellsbury with the 1-0 lead.

Sox skipper Terry Francona noted that it helped the heart of the Sox order - Ortiz, Manny Ramírez and Mike Lowell - that the leadoff hitters, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia were so hot (7 hits, 4 RBIs). The rookies were hitting in the 1-2 spots as a function of the Sox not being able to employ the DH.

"They were on base all night," said Francona. "They did exactly what you would hope your 1-2 hitters would do, and when they're on base like that, it makes it tough for other teams to face the middle of our order."

Ortiz played only five innings, Francona opting to bring in regular first baseman Kevin Youkilis after Ortiz ended the sixth with his second strikeout.

Youkilis, on fire at the plate in both the Division Series and the Championship Series, began the evening as the odd man out of the lineup, forced to take a seat because the NL rules require pitchers to hit. But with what appeared to be a comfortable six-run lead through 5 1/2 innings, Francona opted to give Ortiz the rest of the night off and summoned Youkilis to take his familiar post at first.

While he was working in the field, Ortiz didn't get his first chance until the third inning, when he collected Mike Lowell's throw after a Troy Tulowitzki roller to third. Ortiz's only other chance was the Holliday roller his way to start the fourth.

All in all, a quiet night for the DH-turned-first baseman.

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