Middle of June, and David Ortiz is batting .340. He also has just three home runs in Fenway Park this season. Maybe Big Papi wasn't kidding about becoming Ichiro.
"I'm just going to hit what they give me," said Ortiz, who just missed a home run last night with an eighth-inning double that hit off the top of the low bullpen wall in right, setting up the run J.D. Drew delivered with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly that gave the Red Sox a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rockies before 37,008 in Fenway Park.
"They've been pitching me crazy, man. When I come to the plate with a man on second and first base is open, nothing."
It doesn't even matter, Ortiz said, that Manny Ramírez is waiting on deck.
"Manny bats behind me all the time, but they don't care," he said. "Believe me, at one point they're going to have to. Manny will do way better than he has so far at some point."
In the meantime, Ortiz takes his hits. Two singles and a walk off Rockies starter Aaron Cook and a double last night off Jeremy Affeldt, the former Kansas City Royals lefthander who had held Ortiz hitless in 12 at-bats until Ortiz got him last night. Ortiz is batting .403 in his last 17 games and has reached base safely in 29 straight games, 34 of 35.
"David took a beautiful swing," manager Terry Francona said. "It was a little weird. Coming off the bat, you couldn't tell if the right fielder had a bead on it or not."
The outfielder, Brad Hawpe, had about as much chance of catching Ortiz's ball as the Rockies had of hitting Tim Wakefield, who came away with a win after Colorado had tied the score in the top of the eighth. For the Rockies, making only their second trip to Fenway Park in a decade of interleague play, Wakefield's knuckleball was truly a foreign object. Only Todd Helton had ever stepped in against Wakefield, and that was for one at-bat.
"But I don't care how many times someone has seen him, Wakefield was very good tonight," said Francona of the 40-year-old knuckleballer, who took a 1-0 lead into the eighth and had limited the Rockies to two hits and a walk until Hawpe doubled and scored on Yorvit Torrealba's two-out single to center.
Jonathan Papelbon finished off the Rockies in the ninth, striking out two and looking scary while doing so.
"He came in throwing BBs," said Dustin Pedroia, the rookie second baseman who in his first game as Sox leadoff man punched a single through the left side to start the winning rally.
Pedroia's campaign to convince people he's faster than Kevin Youkilis, however, suffered a blow when Francona lifted Pedroia for a pinch runner, Alex Cora. After Youkilis lined out to the track in center, Aaron Cook's last batter before Clint Hurdle replaced the sinkerballer with Affeldt, it was Cora who hustled to third on Ortiz's hit and subsequently scored -- after an intentional walk to Ramirez -- on Drew's fly ball to center.
Pedroia admitted that he'd lost some face, and that Youkilis already had let him know about it.
"When David hit that ball, it was like, 'Come on, A.C., you got to score on that,' " he said. "That was funny."
Francona's revamped lineup paid dividends on the other end, too, as Julio Lugo, the leadoff man demoted to the No. 9 hole, doubled in the third and scored Boston's first run on a double by Youkilis.
"We didn't do this for one game," Francona said. "I think the reasons were sound or we wouldn't have done this. We're just doing what's right for the ball club.
"But we scored two. If we lose, 10-2, you guys write, 'God, bad move.' "
Drew, meanwhile, is starting to make the right moves. He had a breakout two-homer, seven-RBI game in Arizona Friday night, had three more hits the next night, and after failing to get the ball out of the infield three times against Cook, was able to loft one against Affeldt.
"Their pitcher did a great job," Pedroia said. "Every at-bat was tough. He was throwing his sinker down, and the umpire's zone was down. He just kept putting it there. I was just trying to find a way to get on."
Drew mentioned he felt more comfortable, as a lifelong National Leaguer, spending the weekend in Arizona. But gradually, he said, he is settling in here.
"I kind of put it together a little bit in Oakland, had some good swings there, then carried it over to Arizona, and hopefully, we'll be right back to it here," he said.
"You're searching, you try different things, you find it, and you hope it sticks around for a little while.
"No matter where you're at -- LA was that way, Atlanta that way. In LA, after that first year we were acclimated, we knew everything. It's been a transition year; it will be the entire year. But it starts to feel more comfortable each time."