Other than home runs and wins, there are few things David Ortiz likes better than beating up on the Twins, the team that gave up on him and released him before he joined the Red Sox before the 2003 season.
The best revenge, as they saying goes, is living well, and Ortiz has made a career of that against the Twins.
Entering Wednesday’s season series finale at Fenway Park, Ortiz was hitting .342, with a .431 on-base percentage, .676 slugging percentage, and 19 home runs in 59 career games against Minnesota.
In this series, though, he was just 1-for-7 with a walk in the first two games. Perhaps he was due.
Ortiz seemed to feel that something was due to him following his third at-bat. After going hitless in his first two at-bats, against Twins starter Kyle Gibson – who, like Sox starter John Lackey, pitched a gem -- Ortiz hit a one-out bouncer to Joe Mauer at first base, with the ball caroming of Mauer’s glove. Ortiz reached first base safely on the play, with official scorer Bob Ellis ruling the play an error. Mike Napoli followed Ortiz, grounding into a double play to end the inning.
As Ortiz walked off the field, he stared up at the press box, where the official scorer works, gesturing and yelling. It was clear he thought the play should have been ruled a hit.
Perhaps it was his frustration – at the team’s subpar performance this season, as well as his own. Ortiz’s production this season is well off his typical numbers -- .246/.351/.464 compared to .285/.380/.546 for his career.
Manager John Farrell didn’t see Ortiz carrying that frustration into his next at-bat.
“No, I don’t think so,” Farrell said. “David’s got such a way of putting behind what happened and come back with the next at-bat and a clean slate and calm mind.”
Ortiz got his revenge again, this time in the 10th inning with the Sox trailing by a run. He crushed a Casey Fien slider into the right field seats for his 16th home run of the season, tying the game.
Mike Napoli followed Ortiz with another blast for the game-winner.
“We needed that,” Ortiz said. “We’ve been having a lack of offense. We haven’t been able to produce for our pitching. Our pitching has been outstanding lately – we just haven’t been able to hit. Bouncing back and end up winning the game that way, it can turn around the season.”
Ortiz, though, did not forget the perceived slight.
“We tie the game. We win the game. It doesn’t get any better,” he said. “But I want my hit back anyway.”
The official scorers, paid by Major League Baseball, are supposed to be impartial. Ortiz, though, doesn’t see it that way. To him that impartiality goes too far the other way.
“It’s always so hard here, man,” Ortiz said. “I tell you – people are supposed to have your back at home. It never happens. It’s always like that. I’ve been here more than a decade and the scorekeepers here are always horrible. This is home, man. What do you want Mauer to do? He dove for the ball – he knocked it down. I always look like I am the bad guy but they always end up changing it. Don’t just be checking on Papi. Check on the scorekeeper. See what he’s doing wrong. It’s something that … it’s getting out of control.”
What did he yell as he walked off the field?
“What is he watching?,” Ortiz said. “He’s not watching the same ballgame that everybody is watching, I guess. I got to make it clear. It’s not my first rodeo, man. You know how hard it is to get a hit, man?”
With his underperforming team struggling for wins in a subpar season during a scoreless game in the late innings, perhaps Ortiz’s priorities were misplaced.
Farrell said he was not concerned about it.
“No, he’s in a stretch where he’s working on some things mechanically at the plate,” Farrell said. “Certainly there’s some frustration that comes to the surface. You get a chance to talk to him once things calm down. But David’s a competitor, as we all know an ultimate competitor. So he’s working through some things right now.”
It’s not the first time Ortiz has complained about scoring decisions. A few years ago he burst into Terry Francona’s pregame media session to complain about a ruling that denied him an RBI. That decision was later overturned.
The Sox can appeal this decision to Major League Baseball, if they choose. Is one hit that important?
“Always,” Ortiz said. “That’s what I get paid for.”