EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 6, 2013

Ortiz, Red Sox all but finish off Rays

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — BOSTON — After David Ortiz’s second homer in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Rays yesterday, the Fenway Faithful chanted his name louder than they could yell “Wil Myers.”

Then appeared Big Papi, the face of the franchise, out of the dugout for his curtain call ... and the place erupted even more.

Are you having fun yet? The Red Sox and Ortiz certainly are.

Boston, behind its affable slugger, powered its way to a convincing 7-4 victory over 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays here at Fenway Park.

“It’s enjoyable, it’s enjoyable,” Ortiz told The Eagle-Tribune about this entire season recently. “When you come and you give everything you have and you don’t see any results it’s frustrating. But finally you’re seeing the light.”

Things have been frustrating for Ortiz in recent years with all the losing by the Red Sox. On top of that, many doubted whether Ortiz could remain healthy this year because of the bad Achilles injury he suffered last summer.

But all of that is in the past.

Papi and his Red Sox are one win away from their first postseason series win since 2008. Relentless Boston will pack its uniforms, bats, gloves and brooms and head to Tampa Bay today up 2-0 in the best-of-five ALDS against the depleted Rays.

A sweep is a good possibility with star hurler Clay Buchholz on the mound tomorrow. Win or lose in Game 3, the Red Sox will prevail in this series. There’s no doubt about it after beating Price yesterday. Game 2 was an unofficial must-win for the Rays with their southpaw ace on the hill and they couldn’t get the job done.

If you’re still underestimating the mighty AL East champion Boston Red Sox, then stop. They are a true World Series contender and showed yesterday they can beat a true ace in the postseason.

Price had a 2.48 ERA and minuscule 0.67 WHIP in five starts vs. Boston this regular season. But the Red Sox said, “The heck with that!”

Ortiz entered yesterday 8 for 37 (.216 batting average) with no homers and four RBIs against the lefty in his career.

But Papi absolutely obliterated to baseballs over the right field wall. One came in the first. Another came in the eighth. They combined to travel an estimated 786 feet.

This should come as little surprise. Ortiz now has 14 homers in 68 career postseason games.

“When he’s cooking, he’s very difficult,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said about Ortiz.

Red Sox starter John Lackey declared that Ortiz “likes the bright lights, for sure.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell added: “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.”

It’s difficult not to feel good for Ortiz, a Dominican native who truly loves Boston and takes time to sign his name on something for every old lady or grade schooler who comes within his vicinity.

Sure, Ortiz has had his ugly moments like when he took smashed the phone in Baltimore with a bat. But he also is man whose spirit shines through in a truly personal and honest way.

Like when he picked up the microphone at Fenway before the first Red Sox home game following the Boston Marathon Bombings and declared “This is our (expletive) city” — a moment captured on live TV.

But it wasn’t just Ortiz yesterday. It was a signature 2013 Boston Red Sox victory mixed with relentless offense and extremely aggressive base running. We saw that aggressive style in the fifth when Jacoby Ellsbury scored from first base on a Dustin Pedroia double to the left field corner.

“We knew we had our hands full against David coming in here,” Farrell said. “But they’ll look for opportunities. I thought we did a great job of running the bases with some balls off the walls again. And that all goes into the mindset that’s currently here.”

Even Stephen Drew came through, despite how he has struggled mightily against left-handed pitching all year and entered yesterday 0 for 10 in his career against Price. Drew’s triple to left in the fourth scored Jonny Gomes.

Maddon put it best when he said the Rays got “out-Fenwayed.”

Ortiz and the Red Sox have been terrific at Fenway all year — something that was a signature of the 2004 and 2007 World Series championship clubs — and they again took advantage of the park’s quirks last night.

“We did not,” Maddon said.