Ortiz, Beltre hit their marks
Sluggers collect 100th RBIs in win
CHICAGO — The milestone was just about unthinkable in April, when David Ortiz was mired in a slump that seemed endless. And yet, when Ortiz picked up his 100th RBI last night on a two-run double in the first inning, it seemed to be the resolution of a feat that had become inevitable, as his bat quickened, his numbers exploded, and he neared the form that made him beloved in Boston.
It might be the last milestone reached by Ortiz as a Red Sox. Or it might not be, with a picked-up option or a new deal appearing more and more like a good possibility for the designated hitter. So does he think reaching the 100-RBI mark matters to John Henry? Could that be the difference in staying in Boston?
“I don’t know,’’ said a smiling Ortiz after the Red Sox beat the White Sox, 6-1, at U.S. Cellular
Rays and Yankees lose. C4
Field, keeping their faint playoff hopes flickering. “That’s a question you should go ask him. I don’t think so.’’
Nor does Ortiz put much stock in the number itself. How different, really, is it from his 99 RBIs in 2009?
“Everybody makes a big deal about 100,’’ said Ortiz, who reached the mark for the first time since 2007 and has six career 100-RBI seasons. “Nobody makes a big deal about 99. So I guess you’ve got to look forward to the 100 mark. Personally, I don’t think there’s any difference.
“I guess that one RBI makes a huge difference because everybody was just like focusing on the first two months that I had last year. But 99, 100, to me it’s no difference. It’s just one number different.’’
Still, it was significant, for Ortiz and Adrian Beltre, who reached 100 RBIs in the fifth inning on his third hit. As manager Terry Francona said, “Nice to see Beltre and David get where they got.’’
Beltre, who had doubled in the first and singled in the third, singled again in the fifth to drive in Marco Scutaro. It marked the second time in Beltre’s career he reached the century mark, having done it in 2004 for the Dodgers.
“I was just waiting for Big Papi to get his, so I can follow him,’’ said Beltre, who entered the game on a 2-for-24 slump and had four hits as he awaits the birth of his third daughter, an event that could take him away from the team at any moment.
“Great to see him,’’ Ortiz said. “He should have had 100 a long time ago. This guy has been banging all year round.’’
With the six runs and 16 hits, Boston was able to stave off elimination for yet another day. Though it’s unlikely they were scoreboard watching, they might have noticed the Blue Jays get out to a seven-run lead on the Yankees and hold on for a 7-5 win. That meant that as long as Boston beat Chicago, it would live another day, with their elimination number still at one.
They would. Not that there were many around to see it. Despite the laughable announced crowd of 19,750, with the Bears-Packers game at Soldier Field likely siphoning off quite a bit of the South Side’s faithful.
And that was due in large part to yet another stellar performance from Clay Buchholz, for whom eight innings of one-run baseball has become the norm. That was what he delivered, allowing just five hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
He managed to control the Chicago bats, lowering his already minuscule ERA. In a race to the finale against Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, Buchholz moved to 2.33, just behind Hernandez’s 2.31. Those stand as two of the top three ERAs in baseball, led by Florida’s Josh Johnson at 2.30. Hernandez pitches tonight against Texas.
“Boy, he sure was good,’’ Francona said. “Used all his pitches. He threw strikes. It was fun to watch.’’
Buchholz gave up just a run in the fifth. He started by allowing an infield single on a high chopper off the bat of A.J. Pierzynski. Buchholz fielded the ball and proceeded to land on his backside. It wasn’t graceful.
“I’m not an athlete any more, I can tell you that,’’ Buchholz said. “It was an in between play, I was going off the back of the mound, trying to turn at the same time. I’m not near the athlete I used to be.’’
Buchholz followed that by hitting Carlos Quentin with a pitch. Buchholz got Alexei Ramirez to pop to shortstop, but gave up a run on a sacrifice fly to left field by Brent Morel. And that was it.
“Once I got out there and me and [Victor Martinez] were on the same page for basically every pitch, everything fell right into place,’’ Buchholz said. “It’s definitely big, being able to help this team win, and every time I go out there having the confidence in myself, knowing that I want to go deep in the games instead of trying to scramble through five innings. It’s been fun this season, so far.’’
Buchholz will try to drop that ERA further in his final start, Saturday against the Yankees.
“That would be pretty cool,’’ Buchholz said. “I’m more worried about helping this team win, then when the season’s over look at the numbers.’’
The numbers will be excellent, no matter what happens against the Yankees. Add in the milestones reached by Ortiz and Beltre, and he’s not alone.
There is pride in those numbers, especially for Ortiz, who saw himself written off in the second month of the season.
“I’m not the problem,’’ Ortiz said. “The problem is the people that thought the season was over. I’m here still playing, and I would like to know what they have to say about me now.’’