Ortiz swinging back at his critics


Ortiz swinging back at his critics

By MaureenMullen

BOSTON How are all those prognostications who predicted David Ortizs demise looking now?

Ortiz is hitting .325 with 13 home runs and 30 RBI. He is among the league leaders in several offensive categories including average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, hits, multihit games, total bases, and extra-base hits.

Better yet, he is hitting .355 (22-for-62) against left-handers this season. A career .260 hitter against lefties, he went 3-for-3 against Oakland starter Brett Anderson Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. Entering the game, Ortiz had just one hit in 10 career at-bats against Anderson.

His three hits Sunday tie a season high for the fifth time, all since May 5. Since May 31, he is 7-for-8 (.875) against lefties, with three doubles, a home run, and five RBI. Its the ninth time in his career hes had at least three hits in a game against a lefty. The last, though, was, Sept. 21, 2007, at Tampa Bay.

Hes taking a different approach at the plate this season, he said.

I always hit against lefties, he said. But I got to say I got caught into not putting attention to it the past few years and because of that I walked into bad habits. But I always had some good at-bats, even not hitting for average against lefties. The year before I had some good at-bats against lefties and then mostly I turned away from what I wanted to do. Right now, what Im doing is just trusting my hands and not try to look for both sides of the plate. I pick one side and I go from there and then when they give me the pitch Im not missing it. Thats it.

Because lefties are super-tricky. That guy Sunday, hes tough. But you know what? He knows how to use both sides of the plate. But I didnt go to the plate looking for both sides of the plate. Every pitch he threw me was what I was looking for, away. He gave me pitches away. Hell throw it in. But if youre looking for both, youre not going to react. Throw two baseballs to someone at once, see which one they hit. Thats what happens when youre looking on both sides of the plate. Youre looking for two baseballs. you cant do that. I got caught into that a lot.

Hes trying to return to the approach he used in 2006, when he hit .278 against lefties with 18 home runs in 205 at-bats.

The past few years have been when I havent put up great numbers against lefties. But I have hit lefties before. There was one year that I hit like 18, 20 homers against lefties in 2006. So its not like I never hit lefties. Im just making adjustments. Im going to try to stay there all year. We got four months left. The good thing is that you got fellow lefties Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez hitting in front of me. I watch video. I get my idea from what I see that day. We try to take advantage of it. Thats about it.

The lone out he made Sunday came in the seventh inning, against right-hander Fautino De Los Santos, a long fly ball to deep center, which Coco Crisp tracked down. With three hits already, Ortiz could joke about the out.

Man, only Coco can get that, Ortiz said. You saw that. I went to the video and I was like, Coco why you got to do me like that? Cocos one of the best out there. What can you do?

When Ortiz is doing what he can do, especially against lefties like he has been, it makes the Sox lineup that much more potent.

Remember last year when things were going rough for us against lefties? said manager Terry Francona. There were days when David or J.D. Drew didnt do anything. It made us vulnerable. Right now, Davids, thats a good a swing as youre going to see. The one out he made against a righty, he hit if farther than 10 feet, but against lefties hes staying balanced, hes driving the ball to left field, left-center. That really helps us. When he is hitting in the middle of the order and hes swinging like that against left-handers, thats really going to help us.

He's pretty much locked in pretty good, said Carl Crawford, who hit his first home run at Fenway this season. It's hard to get him out when he's going the other way like that. For us, as a team, we love it because he's been driving in a lot of runs and when a pitcher makes a mistake he's going to hit it out of the park.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl


Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong


Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.