10/13/07 1:30 AM ET
Manny, Papi torment Tribe in opener
Sluggers reach base 10 times, score four runs, drive in three
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
They put on a clinic in patience, which both Ramirez and Ortiz know they can afford to do when pitchers display an obvious fear of the potent bats lurking in their quick hands. Their silent-but-deadly approach in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series helped pace Boston to a 10-3 victory, in which the duo reached base 10 times.
"I've never seen anything like it. They're unbelievable," Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell said. "They're aggressive, they're patient, they're picking their spots, and it doesn't seem like it's just one thing. They just have such solid at-bats -- just to get on one after the other."
That's been an overwhelming trend during these playoffs for the Red Sox, who swept the Angels in three games in the AL Division Series. In the four straight postseason victories, Ramirez and Ortiz have combined to reach base in 29 of their 36 trips to the plate, going 12-for-19 and drawing 16 walks along the way.
When pitchers aren't poking around at the outer edges of the strike zone, Ramirez and Ortiz have been able to successfully jump on the handful of offerings over the plate. On Friday night, Ramirez drilled pitches up the middle in the first and fifth innings for singles, and Ortiz added a base hit in the opening frame and launched a double to the wall in center field in the eighth.
"Those guys are amazing," outfielder Bobby Kielty said. "They're working walks, they're getting hits and they're clutch. Those two guys, back-to-back, have got to be the two toughest in the league right now."
The epitome of the pair's recent run came in the third inning, when Ramirez quickly fell into an 0-2 hole against Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia. After watching the Indians' left-hander fire two pitches into the dirt, Ramirez stared at another pair of offerings that slipped just below the strike zone, earning a free pass with the bases loaded to move Boston in front, 2-1.
"He was 0-2 twice, and he was able to spit on those pitches, those tough pitches, and draws a walk." Lowell said about Ramirez, who also drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth. "I told him, 'Are you just fouling balls off to mess around or what?'"
Sabathia also issued a free pass to Ortiz, who wound up on base again via walk in the sixth. Boston's designated hitter was also hit by a 1-1 pitch from an uncharacteristically wild Sabathia in the third inning. All together, Ramirez and Ortiz saw 45 pitches on Friday, and the pair only offered swings 14 times.
"We know that they're going to pitch kind of carefully," said Ortiz, who has reached base in 16 of his 18 plate appearances this postseason. "That's been the talk, night in and night out before this series. So, we keep that in mind and we stick with whatever they give us.
"Tonight, C.C. was a little wild. You don't get to see C.C. being wild like that too much, so you've got to take advantage of it. When he's in the strike zone, when he's making pitches the way he normally does, he's a tough guy to hit."
No matter how often Ramirez and Ortiz reach base, though, it'd be a moot point if the Red Sox hitters behind them weren't able to capitalize on their production. In the opener against Cleveland, Lowell, Kielty and catcher Jason Varitek each helped Boston run up the score after Ramirez and Ortiz got on.
"Wow," Red Sox manager Teryy Francona said. "They were on base, what, 10 times? That's kind of the extreme. But again, I thought we had good at-bats all the way up and down, and we had a lot of baserunners and took advantage of it. Like I said, I thought it was a real professional approach."
With his first-inning single, Ortiz ran his postseason hitting streak to nine games. In fact, since Game 5 of the 2003 ALCS against the Yankees, Big Papi has hit .433 with hits in 22 of the 24 games over that period. In the 2007 playoffs, he's gone 7-for-9 with two home runs, three RBIs, seven runs scored and eight walks.
Batting behind Ortiz, Ramirez has reached base in 13 of his 18 plate appearances this postseason, with a 5-for-10 showing at the plate. Over the past four games, Boston's left fielder has also launched two home runs with seven RBIs, five runs scored and eight walks. Ramirez's three RBIs on Friday gave him 55 career RBIs in the playoffs, tying him for the third-highest total in history.
"We are professional hitters. We know what we're doing," Ortiz said. "I don't think it's new for you guys to watch me and Manny hitting. We keep it simple. That's how it is."
And the show will go on.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.