Twice as nice: Papi adds to postseason homer total
Red Sox slugger goes deep twice, giving him 14 career playoff homers
BOSTON -- David Ortiz will be 38 next month, but the gregarious Red Sox designated hitter wanted no reminder of that late Saturday night. Instead, the question of his hovering birthday brought about an abrupt "Next question" response to disperse the huge media crowd around Ortiz, who made sure the group was still well within earshot for his final remark: "Did you see me swing that [bat]? I feel 20."
Ortiz had a point. The Red Sox's all-time leader in postseason homers came up big again in Saturday's 7-4 win over the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, as he turned in the first multihomer playoff game of his 17-year career.
"I watched Chipper Jones have a pretty good year last year at 40 and this guy, he's really good," catcher David Ross said of Ortiz, who now has 14 career postseason homers. "Appreciate what you see. Tell the fans that, write that. Appreciate what you see. This guy's really good."
Ortiz has shown no signs of slowing down as his seasons start to add up, with his two-homer achievement even more impressive considering who was on the other side: Rays ace David Price. The Cy Young Award-winning lefty had held Ortiz homerless in 37 career at-bats, the longest such stretch for Ortiz against any southpaw.
That changed in Papi's first at-bat, with Ortiz connecting for a two-out first-inning homer, sending Price's 1-0, 86-mph cutter soaring into right-center field.
"He's definitely one of the best superstars I've ever played with," said Jonny Gomes. "There is a method to the madness with David Ortiz. It's not just this big caveman taking this huge bat up there and swinging as hard as he can. There's a lot of work going into every single one of his swings."
"He's a guy who is just so clutch," added reliever Craig Breslow. "He's shown at-bat after at-bat there are certain guys that kind of swell up in the postseason, and he's historically been one of those guys. He's such a good hitter on top of being such a slugger. I think that's often underappreciated. He's 6-foot-4 and hitting 30 home runs a year you think he probably has some holes or doesn't make adjustments pitch-to-pitch, but he's such a smart hitter also. He doesn't have a glaring weakness and you can't throw the same pitch to him twice."
Price didn't make that mistake, but it didn't matter, as Ortiz opened the bottom of the eighth with a towering homer around the Pesky's Pole in right field. The 1-0 shot, which came on a 91-mph two-seam fastball, made Ortiz the first Boston hitter to collect a multihomer postseason game since teammate Dustin Pedroia in Game 2 of the 2008 AL Championship Series.
"Can't say enough about him," manager John Farrell said. "He's probably surpassed our expectation of number of games played. He's been so productive, which has been consistent with his entire career. It was always a matter of health, and the work he's done to maintain the health. He's the main cog in our lineup. And to build around him, leading up to him and guys that follow him in the lineup we're capable of scoring runs in a couple of ways, but when you can score it in one swing of the bat, as he's done many times over, he's a huge threat for us."
Health was a question surrounding Ortiz when the season began. Last year, he suffered a right Achilles injury and played just 90 games. Ortiz was still recovering from the ailment when Spring Training began and wasn't activated from the 15-day disabled list until April 20.
Ortiz came out for a curtain call after the sold-out crowd at Fenway Park roared chants of "Papi" in exuberance, and his second homer was met with equal enthusiasm in the Red Sox's dugout.
"That's just power on power," Gomes said of the majestic nature of Ortiz's homers. "You saw Price rear back for the first two, you saw big Papi's knee come up a smidge higher. Price's pitch count was getting up, he reared back for his best pitch, Papi came at him with his best swing. It's not always going to work out that way, but that was loud."
And perhaps not entirely unexpected.
"He came in and told me, I wore my A game today because I'm going to be doing interviews after the game," Ross said. "He said he wore his best clothes. Only Papi can do that."
And, indeed, there Ortiz was in a crowded Red Sox's clubhouse wearing a dapper suit talking about the respect he has for the Rays and Price in particular. He congratulated Tampa Bay's ace a few days ago in the weight room on his complete game in Texas and capitalized on a fastball that wasn't as crisp as Price typically carries.
"His home run in the first, I thought, was a real good one," said Price, who stared down Ortiz after he watched his eighth-inning homer in the box to make sure it was fair. "The one in the eighth was a good one as well. I second-doubted myself on the pitch. It's not the pitch I really wanted to throw. I should have stepped off or got the sign I wanted. It's not [catcher Jose Lobaton's] fault. It's nobody but mine."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.