Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-6-27

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Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Top of the 1st
One may look at the headline of this column “To Big Papi” and wonder whether I am writing a letter to David Ortiz or simply dedicating a song to him. I am doing neither. I am making a suggestion to those highly educated people at Merriam-Webster who periodically update dictionaries that they make certain that in the next edition that “To Big Papi” is included as verb meaning “to win in walk-off fashion.”

The man, “Big Papi”, is simply ridiculous. As oblivious Manny Ramirez is to reality, that’s how oblivious David Ortiz is to the pressure of a late inning situation. Everybody knows it…including the pitcher he is facing.

Here’s how Amalie Benjamin, of the Boston Globe, led her article today:

“When Mark Loretta arrived at first base in the bottom of the 12th inning, drawing a walk from Phillies righthander Clay Condrey with Kevin Youkilis already on second and the score tied, he was queried by first base umpire Ron Kulpa.

Do you walk him?”

That’s respect. The first base umpire wants to know do you move the winning run 90 feet from home plate, to avoid pitching to David Ortiz, and face Manny Ramirez instead. An incredible supposition, don’t you think?

First base coach Bill Haselman came over and said to Loretta thought the Phillies should walk the Boston DH.

“I was 50-50 about it,” Loretta said. “I mean, you walk him and the bases are loaded for (Manny) Ramirez, and there’s no place to put him.”

Charlie Manuel, the Phillies manager who looks as if he is constantly wondering why he took this job, played it by the book. He got Big Papied. Like in Saturday’s extra inning contest, Philadelphia pitched to Ortiz, and Ortiz singled to score Youkilis and the Red Sox were 8-7 victors. It was the Red Sox’ ninth straight win.

“He’s unbelievable,” said Coco Crisp, who opened the bottom of the 12th with a ground-rule double. “You know he’s going to come through. [We were] just waiting to jump over the little thing at the dugout to go greet him at first . . . The feeling of him up there is that he’s going to come through.”

“It’s starting to become normal to us, but what he does, it’s the most amazing thing in baseball,” Youkilis said. “His numbers might not be showing up that high. [But] he’s one of the clutchest hitters to ever play this game.”

“If you’ve got Manny (Ramirez) behind him and not enough bases to put them both, I don’t know what you do,” Gabe Kapler said. “At this point, it’s similar to what (Barry) B*nds was a couple of years ago. His presence at the plate late in the game is unreal.”

“I don’t know how he does it, to be honest with you,” outfielder Gabe Kapler said. “At this point it’s semi-cartoonish.”

“You run out of adjectives with him,” Mark Loretta said.

“I was saying on the bench, if you don’t pitch to David in the 11th because you’re afraid he’s going to beat you, why pitch to him in the 12th?” said Red Sox second baseman Alex Cora, referring to an earlier Ortiz walk. “I guess (Phillies manager) Charlie (Manuel) knows Manny. It’s tough.”

“Pick your poison,” Kapler, Cora, Loretta and Mike Lowell each said.

“It feels almost unfair,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “You feel so confident in his ability to do those types of things.”

“That was too good a pitch to give that guy,” said some guy named Condrey the Phillies had pitching, whose fastball to Ortiz got too much of the plate.

Tom Gordon said the same thing after he hung a 2-2, one-out curveball in the 10th on Saturday, which Ortiz crushed to centerfield for a 5-3 win. “He’s a tough out,” Gordon said.

That’s the biggest understatement since Noah said, “It looks like rain.”

Jim Salisbury, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote this morning, “The Sox’ last two wins came on wallops from David Ortiz, who has turned the walk-off hit into an art form.

While the Red Sox might have the most clutch hitter on the planet, the Phillies most certainly do not.

Pat Burrell, who is 2 for 39 with two outs and runners in scoring position for the season, was the anti-Ortiz in this series.”

Burrell, who had numerous chances to Big Papi for the Phils, is in the midst of a 15-for-84, 24-game slump. He went 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the Boston series, and is 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts in his last four games.

But this column is not about the verb “To Burrell” or to choke in clutch situations, we are here to praise Ortiz who how has 10 regular-season, game-ending hits in his career and three in Boston’s last eight home games. He also had three in the 2004 postseason en route to Boston’s first World Series title in 86 years.

Ortiz is not the only batter to Big Papi. He’s not even the first to have game-ending RBI in consecutive games this season; Nomar Garciaparra Big Papied the Brewers on May 5 and 6 vs. Brewers. No Red Sox player has Big Papied since Butch Hobson against the Angels on August 27-28, 1978.

His two-run blast off Philadelphia Phillies closer Tom Gordon in the 10th inning Saturday was his ninth career walkoff homer, seventh in the regular season. The major league record for game-ending homers in the regular season is 12, shared by Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Frank Robinson and Babe Ruth.

Ortiz has six walkoff homers in the regular season since joining the Sox in 2003, tying Albert Pujols for the most in that span. His seven in the regular season have him tied for fourth among active players behind Barry B*nds (10), Jim Thome (nine) and Vladimir Guerrero (eight). Chipper Jones and Mike Piazza also have seven.

What separate Ortiz from the rest of these guys is that you expect him to succeed. You feel comfortably “calling the shot” aloud for others to hear without fear of embarassment.

John Tamase summed it up perfectly in the Boston Herald this morning, “We understand that baseball evolves about as quickly as one of those blind fish scuttling around three miles below the Arctic Ocean, but there is simply no excuse for letting David Ortiz win a game anymore. None. Walk him. Take a delay of game. Beg for his benevolent mercy. Just do not pitch to him.

Take our word for it. Pitch to Manny. It’s not ideal, but it beats watching Big Papi toss his batting helmet and leap skyward, another foe vanquished.”

Another opponent Big Papied.

Sounds to me like we could either use him in Iraq or have him advise the Democratic Party.

Top of the 2nd
The Red Sox are now 11-1 in interleague play. The Tigers and Twins, 11-2. The White Sox and Mariners are 10-2. Tampa Bay is 9-4. Even the Royals are 7-5.

The AL Central is 44-19. The AL East is 37-25. The AL West is 28-21.

On the other side of the ledger –
Pittsburgh and Arizona are each 1-8. The Braves are 2-8. The Phils and Cubs are 3-9. Only the Rockies at 7-3 are thriving in interleague play from the National League perspective.

The NL Central is 21-44. The NL East is 22-34. The NL West is 22-31.

When White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen greeted St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa last week, he said, “I told Mr. LaRussa, ‘Welcome to the American League Central. Now you’re going to see what I have to see every day — [C.C.] Sabathia, [Cliff] Lee, [Jeremy] Bonderman,”’ the White Sox manager said. “To me, it’s the best division in baseball, and the pitching is the best.”

LaRussa’s Cardinals lost six straight games in their interleague travels through Chicago and Detroit last week. So did the Cincinnati Reds, who were swept by the White Sox in three games, and the Cubs, who lost three straight in Minnesota.

Top of the 3rd
Two of baseball’s seniors seem to be heading in different directions. Randy Johnson pitched seven shutout innings for the Yankees, his third strong start in a row, while Greg Maddux got another loss Monday, dropping him to 2-8 over his last 10 decisions.

Johnson (9-6) allowed four hits, struck out a season-high nine and didn’t walk a batter in the Yankees 5-2 victory over the Sadlanta Braves. He was pitching on six days’ rest after serving a five-game suspension for throwing at Cleveland’s Eduardo Perez on June 14. Johnson has gone at least six innings in five of his last six starts. He has allowed four runs in his last 20 1/3 innings.

Carlos Lee hit a two-run homer and Prince Fielder homered twice, one off of Maddux, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs, 6-0.

The Cubs, who have lost eight straight at home in their longest losing streak at Wrigley Field since dropping 12 in a row to start the 1994 season. The Cubs, who have scored a total of two runs in their last three games, have lost 11 of 13 overall and have not won at home since beating Cincinnati on May 30

Maddux, stuck on 325 career wins, gave up five runs and seven hits in seven innings and lost for the eighth time in 11 starts. After starting the season 5-0, Maddux is 2-8 with a 6.78 ERA since May 3. Maddux had not lost eight of 10 decisions since early in the 1990 season when he lost eight consecutive decisions. The only other time Maddux lost eight of 10 decisions was in 1987.

Top of the 4th
Detroit’s Zach Miner won his fourth consecutive start yesterday as the Detroit Tigers continued their baseball-wide dominance with a 10-4 victory over the Houston Astros. His teammate Justin Verlander won four consecutive starts earlier this season (May 10-27). They are the first rookie teammates to win (at least) four consecutive starts since 1984, when two duos did it: Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling for the Mets and Roger Clemens and Al Nipper for the Red Sox.

Speaking of Clemens, he makes his second start of the season tonight against the Tigers.

The Twins’ Joe Mauer is clearly lving up to his “can’t miss” label as he went 4-for-5 with a career-best five RBI to lead Minnesota past the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-2. It was the Twins’ fifth straight win and 15th in their last 17 games. Mauer, who leads the majors with a .377 average, was the story after tying his career high with four hits, two singles, a double and a triple.

The Twins (40-35), were 11