Without a bat, Ortiz at a loss

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- This being close (enough) to Hollywood, this is how the 81st All-Star Game should have ended, not with the American League depending on David Ortiz's base-running acumen.

Need a pinch runner? Cue Dustin Pedroia, tossing aside his crutches and emerging from the AL dugout to replace Ortiz, whose All-Star credentials do not include speed.

Ortiz imagined the possibility, and laughed.

"He ain't that crazy,'' Ortiz said of his injured Red Sox teammate. "I would kill him.''

There would be no escaping reality for Ortiz, who was forced out at second base by right-fielder Marlon Byrd on an apparent single by John Buck, or for the American League, which couldn't overcome that rally-killing gaffe in the ninth and fell 3-1 to the National League.

"Wrong place, wrong time,'' said Ortiz, who had led off the ninth with a single but one out later (a three-pitch Adrian Beltre whiff) was erased by Byrd. "And the wrong guy, too.''

Twenty-four hours after winning the Home Run Derby by flexing 32-homer strength, Ortiz was left to fend for himself on the basepath by AL manager Joe Girardi, who had just one position player left on his bench, Alex Rodriguez. Had Ortiz reached second and Beltre first, Girardi said, he would have had A-Rod run for Ortiz and taken advantage of the re-entry rule that would have allowed Ty Wigginton to come back into the game and run for Beltre (Beltre's tight hamstring sufficient reason to allow Girardi to make that move).

But when Royals catcher Buck flared a sinking liner into right field, Ortiz was caught in hesitation mode less than halfway to second, waiting to see what fate awaited the ball.

"I saw where he was playing,'' Ortiz said. "Everybody knows that Marlon Byrd has great speed in the outfield. I saw him coming in and I thought he was going to catch it, man. I didn't want to be caught in a double play. I just got in between, the ball bounced in front of him, and he made a good throw to second base.''

Byrd, who played for the Texas Rangers before signing with the Cubs and becoming a first-time All-Star, said it didn't matter to him that Ortiz was the man on base.

"I knew he was on first,'' Byrd said, "but it didn't have anything to do with him. It was about trying to play the ball, make up your mind, are you going to dive or not. I pride myself on my defense. I haven't hit my whole career, but the one thing I've been asked to do is play defense.

"I go hard, thinking I can catch every ball. Some balls, you got to make up your mind at the last second. I let it drop and fired as hard as I could [to second base],'' he said.

One batter later, it was over, Ian Kinsler of the Rangers flying out to Arizona's Chris Young in center, ending the American League's unbeaten streak at 13 games. The NL, which had lost seven in a row (there was an infamous tie in 2002), last won in 1996.

"It happens,'' Ortiz said casually.

One interrogator, apparently expecting Ortiz to be more distressed by the outcome, reminded him that home-field advantage in the World Series now belonged to the victors. The AL pennant winners would be required to start the Series on the road.

"Don't matter to me,'' Ortiz said, "as long as they got airplanes.''

Ortiz and Beltre had chartered a plane to take the Sox All-Star contingent back to Boston, where the Sox open a four-game series against the Rangers on Thursday night. All three healthy Red Sox All-Stars played. Jon Lester pitched a scoreless sixth, and Beltre went down swinging on three pitches from Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, the last offering a 98-mph fastball.

The first batter Lester faced was Hanley Ramirez, his teammate in each of his first four seasons in pro ball before Ramirez was traded to the Marlins after the 2005 season. Ramirez tapped back to the mound.

"I've faced him in interleague so it's not like I've never faced him before,'' Lester said. "It might have been different if I hadn't faced him before. And it's been so long since I've been his teammate. But it's cool to face guys you know in the All-Star Game.''

Clay Buchholz, who along with Pedroia and Victor Martinez was introduced before the game but could not play because of injury, said the trip still was worthwhile. His favorite part of the experience? Watching Ortiz win Monday's slugfest.

Better, to be sure, than Tuesday's, um, sprint.

"Unfortunately," said hometown favorite Torii Hunter, who played with Big Papi when they were both with the Twins, "he doesn't have Carl Crawford speed. He has David Ortiz speed.''

It's a pace that Byrd knew only too well.

"I've done it before,'' Byrd said of cutting down Ortiz on the basepath. "Yes I have. He was trying to stretch [a single] into a double in Texas.''

Byrd giggled.

Was it close?


Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.