08/02/06 4:39 PM ET
Ortiz named AL Player of Month for July
Slugger belts 14 homers and has 37 RBIs for Red Sox
By Jennifer Langosch / MLB.com
Big Papi didn't disappoint, putting together a month full of long balls and timely hits that even a zealous playwright couldn't have scripted much better.
As a result, Ortiz was named the American League Player of the Month for July, an honor fitting for Boston's offensive catalyst. Ortiz knocked out a Major League-best 14 home runs in the month while carrying an imposing .339 average.
After beginning the month with two home runs, the Red Sox designated hitter capped off the month in fitting fashion -- walk-off style -- against Cleveland on July 31st.
The stage was set: bottom of the ninth, two on, one out, Red Sox trailing by two. Enter David Ortiz, stage right.
Big Papi didn't miss his entrance. On cue, Ortiz launched a home run over the center field wall to give Boston the walk-off win and to sign off on a month where he provided show-stopping performances night after night.
The supporting cast just watched. Impressed? Of course. Surprised? Not really.
"We've seen it so often," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after the come-from-behind win. "The whole inning we're sitting there thinking, 'Let's just get David to the plate.' He just has the ability to take such good swings in those situations. He doesn't do anything different. I think he's smart enough to know the pressure is on the other team, even though we're down."
It's gotten to the point where the Red Sox expect Big Papi to come through with the game on the line. Those expectations are a result of Ortiz's flair for the dramatic -- and he thrives in the lead role.
"He's got a knack, he sure does," said Boston third baseman Mike Lowell after Ortiz snuck a two-out, 11th-inning single through the Angels' infield to send Boston home with a win on July 28. "We feel very confident and we feel very good when he's at the plate in those situations. He keeps coming through. We almost expect it out of him now, so he better not pop up -- ever."
When told he had won the award, Ortiz didn't attribute anything special to his recent hot streak.
"Oh really? [It's] nothing. I'm feeling good, I guess. It's something that you don't think about, you just do what you gotta do. It feels good. With the numbers, they decide to do whatever they want to do. ... It feels good though."
How fitting was it that home run games served as bookends for Ortiz's July? He knocked out a total of 14 for the month, three more than the next best total in the Majors, which belonged to the Angels' Juan Rivera.
Ortiz also became the first player in the storied Red Sox franchise to record 30 home runs before the All-Star break. By the end of the month he had a Major-League best 37, putting him on pace for 58 by season's end.
"I just swing hard in case I hit it -- that's it," said Oritz, a three-time All-Star, who earned Player of the Month honors for the second time in his career.
This year Ortiz has a Major-League leading 105 RBIs; 35 of those came in the 27 games Boston played in July. And nine times during the month Ortiz drove in at least two runs in a game.
"You can't say enough about him," said Boston right-hander Josh Beckett. "Obviously, David, he's a freak. He's like a superhero. He's like that in real life, too, and I think that's why everything about him is so endearing, because he is a genuine person and people here love him, and there's a reason why."
The All-Star also had six doubles and a triple on his way to putting up a .429 slugging percentage and a .798 on-base percentage in July. Three times during the month Ortiz recorded multi-homer games, giving him four on the season.
Ortiz's home run cut didn't even get a respite during the All-Star break, as the Boston slugger took part in the Home Run Derby at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. Though his two-round total of 13 wasn't enough to propel him into the finals, Ortiz dazzled the crowd with numerous shots that were stopped only by the Allegheny River. One traveled a daunting 488 feet.
Boston finished the month with a 15-12 record, riding the back of their offensive star to keep pace with the Yankees in the American League East.
The Twins' Justin Morneau finished second to Ortiz in the voting for the award. Morneau posted a .410 average (41-for-100) with eight home runs and 23 RBIs during July. The hot streak raised his season average from .288 to .321.
Jennifer Langosch is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.