The Red Sox’ offensive onslaught today made David Oritz’s struggles more glaring. Every player who went to bat against the New York Mets in a 12-5 victory had at least one hit and reached base at least twice except Ortiz, who went 0 for 5 and saw his average drop to .195, its lowest point since April 19.
When asked if dropping Ortiz in the batting order might be in the offing, Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan responded, “I think that’s something we’re going to discuss. We’ll probably talk about it on the flight [to Minnesota]. We want to do what’s best not only for David, but what’s best for the team.”
While the Red Sox may be ready to change Ortiz’s place in the lineup, Ortiz remained upbeat after the game, insisting he feels good at the plate. Red Sox coaches and players maintained they believe Ortiz will come out of his vicious slump.
“He was more or less saying today, ‘God, I can’t believe this was happening. I’ve never been through this before.’ ” Magadan said. “I told him, ‘The reason this has been cast upon you is because you handle it.’ I really believe that. I think he’s a guy that’s got a strong will. I think if anybody can handle it, it’s him.
“He’s got to be a big part of our offense. By no means do I feel like he’s at the end of his rope. He’s got a lot of baseball left in him. He’s got a lot of confidence in him. He’s one of our main guys. We’ve got to get him back.”
The Red Sox hoped Ortiz’s first home run of the year Wednesday night would remove a burden and serve a fulcrum for his season. “Felt like he was going to be off and running,” Magadan said. Instead, it has been a blip on a dismal screen. Since he blasted his home run, Ortiz is 2 for 18. Ortiz has struck out seven times and grounded into one double play in his last 12 at-bats.
And yet, “my swing is good,” Ortiz said. “I like what I am right now. I’m getting some swings. I’m seeing good pitches.”
His 0-fer today owed partly to bad luck. In his third at-bat, Ortiz ripped a line drive directly at first baseman Daniel Murphy, who crouched and a made a backhanded snare, turning a possible double into another out. Ortiz hit the ball so hard he never left the batter’s box. He turned around, laughing with a wide smile, as if to say, “What else can I do?”
At least the chuckles offered a departure a post-at bat reaction that is becoming sadly familiar: his head down, his gait slow as he trudges back to the dugout. Ortiz made such a walk late in the afternoon, after he popped up to shallow left in his final at-bat. Given the crowd’s reaction, Ortiz is fortunate he bats in front of Kevin Youkilis – you couldn’t tell if it was “Booo!” or “Yoouuuk!”
“A lot of people are looking at me,” Ortiz said. “It gets contagious. But I’m going to keep on rolling.”
Ortiz has remained engaged. He still views video of himself between at-bats in the clubhouse. He hugged Manny Delcarmen after his two scoreless innings, and after Mike Lowell crunched a double, his third hit of the day, off the Wall in the eighth inning, Ortiz was the first Red Sox player to greet him in the dugout.
“He’s frustrated,” manager Terry Francona said. “Big picture, we’ve got to get him going. It’s been tough for him.”
“I think a lot of it is mechanical,” Magadan said. “I think a lot of it is maybe mindset. I think he’s going through a period now where he’s trying to do too much every at-bat. He’s frustrated by it, no question about it.
“But I think a big key is he’s looking a lot better in his pregame stuff. He’s just go to stick with it. He’s got to continue to fight through it.”