Why would the Cardinals pitch to Ortiz?

Why would the Cardinals pitch to Ortiz?
October 29, 2013, 12:15 pm
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There’s only one acceptable excuse for why the Cardinals are still pitching to David Ortiz. Or at least for why they pitched to him last night.
 
“Well, he can’t possibly get a hit every time . . .”
 
Because that’s true. Everything we’ve ever learned about baseball supports the hypothesis that it’s impossible for a player to get a hit, or just reach base, in every single at-bat. Not even “Joe” from Baseball Stars could pull that off. This past season, Ortiz only got on base 39 percent of the time, and while that was good for fourth in the American League, in the big picture, it was still 39 percent. He failed to reach more than 60 percent of the time; he succeeded less than four times for every 10 at-bats.
 
But of course, Ortiz entered last night having reached base in 12 of 16 World Series at-bats, including seven straight. He had eight total hits. He was batting .721. And all those numbers were under a bright, hot and bearded spotlight as he stepped to the plate in the first inning. Runner on second. First base wide open. Adam Wainwright on the mound.
 
In retrospect, maybe the Cardinals really were just playing the odds. Playing real life. Working under the assumption that, “OK, this guy has reached base SEVEN straight times. His series OBP is .750! Sure, he’s hot. But he’s also human. At some point, this has to even out. Regardless of how we pitch to him, at some point he simply HAS to make an out. And right now, we’ve got our best pitcher on the mound. So why not?”
 
Maybe that’s what they were thinking, and like I said, that’s probably the only line of reasoning that makes even a little sense. But while they were thinking that, the rest of the baseball world was thinking: “Naaah, they’ll never pitc—“
 
Wrong. Before you could even process the thought, Ortiz turned on a cutter, pulled it down the line past a decrepit Allen Craig and scored Dustin Pedroia to give Boston an immediate 1-0 advantage. It wasn’t the winning run, but the value of that hit reached far beyond the scoreboard.
 
It broke the ice for a Sox lineup that’s recently struggled to score early in games. It put Wainwright in a hole before he could get comfortable. It presented Jon Lester with a cushion before he even took the mound, and with the way he’s dealing in these playoffs, that’s almost unfair.
 
Ortiz picked up two more hits on the night. He’s now hitting .733 for the series.
 
.733.
 
Lester gave up only one run over the next seven and two thirds innings. For the series, he’s now pitched 15.1 innings, allowed one run, struck out 20 Cardinals and walked only one. His career World Series ERA now sits at 1.97.
 
1.97.
 
Meanwhile, the Sox picked up two more runs on a David Ross double and a Jacoby Ellsbury single. In the end, John Farrell turned to Koji Uehara for the final four outs, and Koji Uehara was Koji Uehara. Four up, four down, two strikeouts, 15 total pitches, and the Sox were headed home — one win away from another World Series title.
 
One win away.
 
You know, for all the heroics on display last night, I’m sitting here today having a hard time getting carried away. Despite Ortiz continuing to dominate at a level that’s so beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Despite Lester delivering a performance that cemented his status among the greatest starting pitchers to ever wear the uniform. Despite David Ross’ rise from the brink of retirement to World Series hero. Despite Stephen Drew playing shortstop with a proficiency that almost makes up for one of the worst slumps in postseason history. Despite Koji just being Koji and being Koji and being Koji . . .
 
It’s impossible to ignore the underlying truth in all of this: That as important and impactful as last night feels right now, everything that’s happened so far in this series will pale in comparison to what happens next.
 
The drama. The insanity. The unlikely turn after unlikely turn after — what the hell is going on here? Is this real life?
 
That’s all commonplace compared to the potential that lies ahead.
 
The fact that, of all people, John Lackey will take the mound on Wednesday night with a chance to clinch the World Series in front of a sold out Fenway Park. The fact that it would be the first time the Sox clinched a title at home since 1918.
 
Man, that year used to mean so much around here. It used to carry such a weight; such an unbearable burden. Today, it’s an interesting sidebar. If anything, it’s just a symbol of how far this franchise has come. How far this fan base has come. Today, the significance of that season won’t hover over these next two games like an evil spirit, instead it’s just like: “Oh, cool. Might be nice to see them finally clinch one at home.”
 
And it would be. But it won’t be easy. They’ll have to beat Michael Wacha tomorrow, and he hasn’t been beaten since the playoffs started. If they fail, it moves to Game 7. The ball lands in the hand of Jake Peavy or Felix Doubront, which is to say, all bets are off.
 
Speaking of all bets being off, CSNNE’s Webby-nominated World Series MVP tracker has reached a standstill.
 
At this point, if the Sox win, the award goes to Ortiz. He could finish up the series 0-7 with seven strikeouts and 15 runners left on base, and short of someone else exploding for nine home runs and 20 RBI, Ortiz will be holding the trophy. He might win it even if the Red Sox don’t.
 
On the other hand, if the award does go to a Cardinal, what that Cardinal has done over these last five games won’t really matter. Throw out all the numbers. If St. Louis wins this series, the World Series MVP will be the MVP of these next two games.
 
Then again, if they keep pitching to Ortiz, it’s a safe bet that the second game never happens.
 
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