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Saturday, October 5, 2013
Big Papi delivers goods as promised

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- Start with the red suede shoes. The matching red belt. Red tie on black shirt. Black jacket. Diamond studs.

David Ortiz dressed with a purpose Saturday night, one he shared with Red Sox catcher David Ross when he arrived at Fenway Park earlier in the day for Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

"He came in and told me, 'I wore my 'A' game today, because I'm going to be doing interviews after the game,'" Ross said. "He wore his best clothes. Only Papi can do that."

David Ortiz
Locked in long before game time, David Ortiz came out swinging with a first-inning home run.

Actually, Ortiz took it a step further. He predicted ahead of time why people would be clamoring to talk to him.

"He told some guys before the game he was going to hit two home runs and he did," Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. "That's pretty impressive. A couple of us heard him say it. Rossie and I looked at each other [afterward]. 'He said he was going to do that, didn't he?'"

It was just a couple of weeks ago that the Sox unveiled a companion statue to go along with Ted Williams and "The Teammates" on Ipswich Street, outside the right-field grandstand. This one was dedicated to Carl Yastrzemski, who on this date 46 years ago hit two home runs in Game 2 of the 1967 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was the only time in Yaz's Hall of Fame career that he ever hit two home runs in a postseason game.

On Saturday, in a game that began in twilight with Yaz's 1967 Impossible Dream teammate, Jim Lonborg, throwing the ceremonial first pitch, and ended more than three hours later with a sellout crowd of 38,705 exploding with every strike thrown by Sox closer Koji Uehara, David Ortiz demonstrated anew why the day will surely come when he will be measured in bronze, too.

His bookend solo home runs off Rays left-hander David Price -- a first-inning shot that landed in the Sox bullpen and gave them a 2-0 lead, and an eighth-inning drive into the far reaches of the right-field grandstand, just inside the foul pole -- began and ended a 7-4 Sox win that threatens to drop the curtain on this American League Division Series far more quickly than most anyone had anticipated.

With victories in the first two games, the Sox are a win away from disposing of the Rays, who had gotten pretty good at this elimination business themselves, knocking out the Rangers and Indians to advance to this stage. But that was before they got to Boston. A carefree Price talked before the series started about how much fun it was to ride a rented bicycle around town. That was before the Sox took a tire iron to his wheels.

"Last night's win was huge, tonight's win was huge, but I don't think it caught too many people off guard," outfielder Jonny Gomes said after the Sox built a 5-1 lead in the first four innings after scoring 12 unanswered runs the day before.

"Matt Moore is a heckuva pitcher. David Price is a heckuva pitcher, but we've got the best offense."

Which they couldn't say, Ross said Saturday, unless they had Ortiz.

"I told David the other day -- we were on the road -- I've never seen a guy care about winning every day and bringing it," Ross said. "If he doesn't bring his 'A' game, we're not very good. Him and Dustin Pedroia. He's a presence in our lineup, obviously. When I'm catching on the other team, coming in here, David Ortiz gets my attention." Ortiz has 14 postseason home runs, the most in club history. So it wasn't especially mind-bending to think he'd be confident about hitting another. But to say he would hit two? How often does that happen?

"Zero," Ross said. "You don't hear that from superstars."

What made it even more breathtaking in its audacity is that Ortiz would say so on a day he knew he was facing the left-handed Price. He had 42 previous plate appearances against Price, and had never homered, regular season or postseason. That was his most plate appearances without a home run against any left-handed pitcher. It was his most PA's without a home run against any pitcher, left or right, except for Rodrigo Lopez, the journeyman right-hander from Mexico who faced Ortiz 54 times without being taken deep. Go figure.

"He hits left-handers like he hits righties," Middlebrooks said. "There's no lefty-lefty matchup for him. There's no matchup for him."

David Ortiz
David Ortiz's two-homer game was his first in the postseason and second ever off a left-hander.

Ortiz hit a 1-and-0 cutter into the bullpen caught by Sox reliever Franklin Morales. He hit a 1-0 two-seamer for his second home run.

"That's just power on power," Gomes said. "You saw Price rear back, you see Big Papi's knee come up just a smidge higher. Price rears back, 'Here's my best pitch.' Papi rears back, 'Here's my best swing.' It's not always going to work out that way. [The impact] was pretty loud." Ortiz suspects the complete-game win Price delivered last Monday night in Texas took something out of him.

"One thing I noticed about him he wasn't like he [usually is]," Ortiz said. "He pitched four, five days ago, complete game. A complete game late in the season catches up to you a little bit. He wasn't 96, 98 like he used to be, you know what I'm saying? It wasn't a bad fastball, but not like what you normally expect." On Nov. 18, just over six weeks from the end of a season in which he batted .309, hit 30 home runs and drove in 103 runs, David Ortiz turns 38.

"It's crazy," said Middlebrooks, who just turned 25. "But once you know how to hit, you know how to hit. As long as his body holds up, he's going to be able to hit for a while." Middlebrooks recalls watching Ortiz's walk-off home runs in 2004, when he was a 16-year-old in high school. That he's still doing it now?

"It's unbelievable," he said, "but it goes back to how hard he works, how focused he is, not only about hitting but taking care of his body so he can be a force in the lineup for more than this year." David Ortiz, just as he planned it, stood in all his splendor, surrounded by people asking him about his two home runs. One inquisitor mentioned he was turning 38.

"You think I want to know that?" he said. "I feel good, man. What else?" He clapped his hands. "All right, party time." As he walked away, his voice rose. "Thirty-eight, my ass," he said. "I'm 21. You see me swing that [expletive]? I swing that [expletive] like I'm 20." There was one more thing.

"By the way," he said, "I don't celebrate my birthday anymore."