Ortiz-Ramirez combo as lethal as ever
Both Red Sox sluggers on fire heading into World Series
BOSTON -- Put them together and they are a devastating force of power, focus and plate discipline. This October, they've yet to meet their match.
They can bang the ball from wall to wall at Fenway, and during this World Series, they will try to send those screaming liners through the thin air of the Rocky Mountains.
David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Big Papi and Manny Being Manny. Call them whatever you want, but good luck trying to stop them.
Even by their own lofty standards, Ortiz and Ramirez -- the fearsome No. 3-4 combo of the Boston Red Sox -- are putting on an October show to remember.
Ramirez is hitting .400 (12-for-30) with four homers, 14 RBIs, a .578 on-base percentage and an .833 slugging percentage. Ortiz? Try .387 (12-for-31) with three homers, six RBIs, a .543 on-base percentage and a .774 slugging percentage.
As unfair as it might be to expect this lethal combo to keep coming through, they keep delivering.
"It's like a broken record," said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. "You don't want to get to the point where you're expecting that every time, every series. But it's like every time, they deliver. It's a comfort for us as coaches, and I'm sure for the fans, knowing that those guys are in the middle of the lineup. They look forward to these moments. They come through most of the time."
This is their fifth season as teammates, and the fourth time they've gone through the intensity of October as the meat of the Boston batting order.
In Boston's drive to the World Series championship in 2004, Ortiz was the American League Championship Series MVP, while Ramirez carted home that honor in the Fall Classic.
Josh Beckett was the MVP in this year's ALCS against the Indians, but it would also be hard to imagine the Red Sox getting to this late juncture of the season without their two sluggers looming in the middle of the order.
"Every team needs some people to come in and get it done like that," said Ortiz. "We've gotten to learn a lot about each other. I watch him, he watches me. I know him, he knows me."
If Ramirez has lived up the "I'm a bad man" billing he gave himself after a walk-off rocket home run in Game 2 of the Division Series against the Angels, Ortiz has been the picture of patience, drawing 12 walks and coming through on those occasions pitchers do challenge him.
"I think those guys bring to the game something special every day -- something electric," said Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew. "You've got to realize that the other guys in the lineup have to carry their weight for those guys to be successful and productive."
And that was the key to Boston's comeback in the ALCS. Once Dustin Pedroia started setting the table and Drew began coming to life, the offense no longer relied too much on the two big boppers.
As much as Ortiz and Ramirez thrive on the moment, they know they can't do it alone.
"This thing is not all about me and Manny, dog," Ortiz said. "We're in the middle of the lineup. But seriously, everybody needs to come in and do something. You're facing good pitching, and good pitching is going to bring their best against everybody, but especially against Manny and David."
This hasn't been the easiest of seasons for Ortiz or Ramirez. Ortiz fought through pain in his right knee all year and will have surgery as soon as the World Series ends. Ramirez put up less than spectacular numbers (20 homers, 88 RBIs) for the first time in his career and fought an oblique injury throughout September.
But they've been clicking together in this run to the World Series.
"We've got a lot of confidence in our offense," said Ramirez. "We know we're going to come through."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona has mentioned numerous times that Ramirez has looked "dialed" in since the postseason started. Ortiz appears to be using the same dial.
"They know what's at stake," Magadan said. "They know that they've got to bring their 'A' game and that they're a huge part of our lineup and they're a huge part of the reason we win. They want to look everyone in the eye in here and tell them that 'I'm up there looking to do damage every at-bat. I'm not going to lose my focus.'"
Are Ortiz and Ramirez so good that they can be taken for granted?
"No," said Francona. "We're very appreciative. [We] never [take them for granted]. But I understand why you would ask that. We've come to lean on them so much. And there's such a big presence in the middle of the order. We've talked about it and it's been since before I've been here. It's difficult to get through those guys. Sometimes you have to walk somebody. Sometimes it takes 10 pitches. That's part of the reason we are successful."
And a big part of the reason the Red Sox are again in the World Series, where the most feared power combo in the game will be on center stage.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.