Commentary

Grand master Papi keeps producing

David Ortiz's slam sparks a Red Sox explosion against the Marlins

Updated: June 21, 2012, 9:33 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- David Ortiz has made it quite clear this season that this Boston Red Sox team is his.

Both on and off the field, the 10-year Sox veteran has taken complete control, from the time the players arrived at spring training back in February, straight through Wednesday's 15-5 win over the Miami Marlins at Fenway Park.

[+] EnlargeBoston Red Sox
Darren McCollester/Getty ImagesMike Aviles celebrates his home run with Kevin Youkilis, left, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, right.

Ortiz went 1-for-4, but his one hit was a towering grand slam in the fourth inning that helped Boston to victory. He wasn't the only one to launch a long ball for the Red Sox, as Mike Aviles, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Will Middlebrooks each provided a home run.

Boston is in the midst of a four-game winning streak after exploding for 12 hits Wednesday and now has seven homers in the past two games.

"We're definitely capable of being able to do that," Saltalamacchia said.

Yes, everyone contributed but Ortiz is definitely locked in at the plate. He has launched home runs in three straight games, which is his longest streak of consecutive games with a homer since Sept. 23-25, 2009. In his past 10 games, he's hitting .394 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. Overall, he's hitting .313 with 18 homers and 49 RBIs this season.

"Obviously, if we were in first place, he would be the guy that everybody would be talking about because he's been so consistently excellent the entire year," manager Bobby Valentine said. "It's hard to be excellent and it's hard to have a consistency about you for 60-plus games, but day in and day out, he's brought it."

After Boston's horrific 7-20 collapse this past September -- when the club failed to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season -- Ortiz realized during spring training that he would be the longest-tenured player on the team without Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield in the clubhouse.

He's always been a leader, but he's reached a new level this season, despite the fact the Red Sox have not given him the long-term deal he's wanted in recent years.

Twice he's held meetings with the players -- once during spring training and another in the early part of May when the club was still struggling. More importantly, he's not all talk. He's doing it with his bat, too.

"I feel good," Ortiz said. "I'm just taking what they give me. I'm trying not to waste that pitch I see. I don't get that many opportunities over the plate, so I'm just trying to be patient and wait for that one pitch they give me to hit."

The grand slam was his 396th career home run, which ties him with Joe Carter for 52nd on major league baseball's all-time list. Ortiz's 10 career grand slams with the Red Sox (11 overall in his career) put him second on the club's all-time list behind Ted Williams, who hit 17.

First-year Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross was standing in the on-deck circle when Ortiz unleashed the grand slam in the fourth inning Wednesday.

"He got a really good pitch to hit and did what he's done almost 400 times now," Ross said. "It's a treat to sit there on the on-deck circle and watch it happen. For me he's a Hall of Famer, and to see him come through like that is huge for us as a team, and obviously the fans love it, too."

Ortiz's career numbers are impressive, and he deserves serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. The 36-year-old has a .284 career average and 1,315 RBIs, and has won two World Series titles.

"Just the numbers itself, and I don't care if he's a DH," Ross said. "He's put up some incredible numbers and he's not done. He can play for as long as he feels like he can. He's going to continue to keep going at it. It's a lot of fun to be on his team and be a part of it."

Saltalamacchia, who hit his 13th homer of the season, agrees that when Ortiz is locked in, there's not much opposing pitchers can do.

"He's locked in, like we've seen in the past," Saltalamacchia said. "When he gets a fastball in like that, he doesn't miss too many of them and he didn't miss that one.

"It's fun, man. It's just so much fun to be a part of it and watch him. Him and Adrian [Gonzalez] both, those guys feed off each other. It's kind of silly to watch Adrian struggle right now and he's still hitting over .260. I wish I could struggle and still hit that, but he's going to get into the groove and he's starting to feel better. We feed off those guys."

Red Sox rookie Will Middlebrooks did not start Wednesday, so he was a spectator before he was inserted as a pinch runner for Kevin Youkilis in the sixth inning. Middlebrooks remained in the game at third base and provided a two-run homer in his only at-bat in the bottom of the eighth inning.

"It was fun to watch the first [six] innings today," Middlebrooks said. "It's fun to watch those guys go about their business, and I was just happy to come in and help. When you've got guys like Dustin [Pedroia], Adrian and Big Papi, you want to blend in and you want to be able to help. You just watch those guys go about their business and try to pick things up."

Middlebrooks has fit in nicely both on and off the field for the Red Sox. He's watched and learned what being a teammate of David Ortiz is all about.

"The teammate he is day in and day out never changes," Middlebrooks said. "Performance doesn't dictate how he acts. He's a true leader in the clubhouse."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES