Pick your poison
By pitching around Ortiz, Angels burned by Ramirez
Posted: Saturday October 6, 2007 2:32AM; Updated: Saturday October 6, 2007 2:33AM
BOSTON -- These are three of the official Rules of October, as determined by sworn agreement among major league managers:
It is now okay to use your closer in a tie game on the road.
An insect infestation of Biblical proportions shall not interrupt the expensive air time of your official network of the postseason.
David Ortiz shall not be permitted to swing the bat in any meaningful situation.
On Friday night, Manny Ramirez ended Game 2 of the American League Division Series for Boston, hitting a walkoff homer for a 6-3 win. It was Ortiz, though, who won it. The Angels walked Ortiz four times, two of which were determined to be intentional, though with Ortiz it is difficult to tell. The last one was a predictable admission by Angels manager Mike Scioscia that he would rather pitch to Ramirez with two outs and the winning run on second than to Ortiz.
"You have one of the best clutch hitters in the game," Boston infielder Alex Cora said, "and a Hall of Famer hitting behind him."
"Well," Scioscia said, "you really pick your poison."
For those of you driving down the Mass Pike today, be careful. Ramirez's home run might actually land sometime soon. He turned around a 95 mph fastball from Francisco Rodriguez with a viciously quick and powerful swing. His home run was majestic, as big and beautiful as any longball you shall ever see. People who were there will be telling their grandchildren about it.
This, you thought, was the guy Los Angeles actually wanted to pitch to? Well, yes. That speaks to just how good is Ortiz, especially in October. In his past 22 postseason games, Ortiz is hitting .412 with eight homers and 26 RBIs. He has been on base a staggering 53 times in 22 games. Will he ever get the chance to win a game again? "Yeah," deadpanned GM Theo Epstein. "Bases loaded, tie game."
Said Ortiz, "I talked to Manny. I told him [about the walks], 'Can you stop this?' It happened four times tonight."
Turn the clock back a few hours from the Angels wanting no part of Ortiz. Alex Rodriguez, the best player in baseball as he has come to be known 11 months out of the year, batted with the winning run on second in the ninth inning for the Yankees. Yes, there were two strikes when Bobby Abreu stole second base, leaving a parking spot open at first base for A-Rod. But Fausto Carmona and the Indians had no problem attacking Rodriguez. There is no Ortiz factor at work with A-Rod. Carmona fanned Rodriguez, on a pitch that probably was one of two that would have been ball four had Rodriguez allowed himself to be walked.
"But you have to remember," Ortiz said, "when people keep saying you have to come through in the postseason, and it's your own media ... you keep hearing that over and over and you are going to try even harder to do it. That's when you go outside the [strike] zone."
The Red Sox are scary good right now. Josh Beckett is pitching like the ace that baseball people expected from the moment he was drafted. The bullpen, with Manny Delcarmen growing into an important role and Jonathan Papelbon, eating up multiple innings, pitching like a youthful Mariano Rivera, is lights out. But the Red Sox are never so good as when Ramirez gets hot behind Ortiz. It is the best 1-2 combination in baseball, and it works because Ortiz is the most feared hitter with the game on the line.
It may be a long time before Ortiz gets to hit again with an October game in the balance. No matter. He will, in ways unlike any other hitter in baseball, still influence the outcome of the game.