Nation STATion: Ortiz slump redux

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Nation STATion: Ortiz slump redux

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

When you look at David Ortiz numbers this season, you feel pretty good right? Hes hitting .288 with 20 homers and 68 RBI.

Well, maybe Im a glass half-empty guy. Because Ive been looking at his numbers and Ill be honest, Im feeling pretty queasy.

You see, entering play on June 14, Big Papi was hitting .325, with 17 homers and 43 RBI. Since that June 14 date, the Red Sox have visited the foreign National League lands, took a break for the All-Star Game (where we watched Papi participate in the Home Run Derby), and then saw Ortiz suspended for three games after his trot to first base on a routine fly ball created a mini-brawl between two big men. And over his last 39 games, of which he has started 33, David Ortiz is 28-for-127, which comes to .220 average. He has hit 3 homers and driven home 25. His 25 RBI total is inflated by a pair of games against an impotent Kansas City Royals staff when, in back-to-back games, Ortiz drove home nine of the 25 Red Sox runs. He has walked 24 times, whiffed 24 times and grounded into 8 double plays.

When he started the 2010 so slowly, fans were saying that Ortiz was too old. In spite of all the hand wringing, he still started better and hit better last year than he has over his last 39 games, when he is actually older than he was last year. Over those first 39 games last year, Ortiz hit .272 with 11 homers and 31 RBI, walking 17 times and striking out 45 times. His OPS through 39 games last year was .929, about 200 points higher than it has been over the past 39 games this year.

Early last season, fans were truly questioning whether the Sox should pick up Ortiz 12.5 million contract. Obviously, the Red Sox did pick it up, but have you given thought as to what really was the cost of that contract? At the time the Sox renewed Ortiz they did not have Adrian Gonzalez, they did not have Carl Crawford, but what they did have were soft expectations for their continuing sellout streak at Fenway, and weaker advertising revenues on NESN. Papi was, and is, the feel-good guy. He is the guy who makes the Nation smile, so when they picked up his option on November 4, it was very much a business decision.

Looking back on the timeline, on November 23 the Tigers signed Victor Martinez and on December 4 the Sox acquired Gonzo. Then within the week, they signed Crawford. Think about the Sox lineup for the next three years if they opted for V-Mart over Ortiz. Ortiz salary for 2012 is just slightly less than the numbers that Victor Martinez was to sign for with the Detroit Tigers. V-Mart is making 13 million this year and next, and 12 million in 2014, when he turns 35 (Ortiz turns 36 in November). But there are significant differences when comparing the two hitters.

Martinez is hitting .320, with just 6 homers but 63 RBI. But not only is he a switch-hitter, but he can play the field, which Ortiz cant do without the Sox sacrificing defense both in right, when Gonzalez is moved there, and at first when Papi takes Gonzos place. So far this season, V-Mart has been a DH for 62 games (hes hitting .341 in that role), caught 25 games (his .267 is better than either Salty or Tek), and played first for six games (hitting .318 in that small sample).

Yes, David Ortiz is the Sox' top lefty against lefties this season, hitting .330 with 6 homers and 24 RBI, but hes making his dollars to destroy righties, not to go to the opposite field against lefties. And while overall his numbers are .272 with 14 homers and 42 RBI against righties, note that Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .381 with 16 homers and 66 RBI against righties and Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .347 with 14 homers and 53 RBI against righties. Meanwhile since June 14, righties are destroying Ortiz holding him to a .181 average and no homers. You read that correctly: The last homer David Ortiz has hit off of a righty was June 12.

Point in fact is that Ortiz has really only had one stellar month. In May, Ortiz hit .342 and slammed half of his 20 homers. In June he hit .295 with five homers and it got worse in July when he hit .253 with three homers.

This is not about liking or disliking Big Papi. His infectious smile and fan-friendly presence has been an integral part of the energy of Red Sox Nation. Plus, in the past, his bat has been a threatening force in the lineup. But as we enter the dog days of the 2011 season, we also need to think of the reality of the future. Around the second week in July, Ortiz told the Heralds Michael Silverman that he hoped to receive a two-year contract extension with an option for a third year. If the Sox make it to the World Series, and if the Series goes seven games, Game Seven will take place in the National League city, minus the Designated Hitter, and minus David Ortiz, a condition that Sox fans might need to get used to in the coming years.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

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Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON - The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.