Archive for Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Red Sox bats ready to roll

October 2, 2007

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— David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are back where they want to be - in the heart of the Red Sox lineup and in the playoffs again.

After a season in which their power numbers decreased while their aches and pains increased, the Boston sluggers are set to swing away.

"It seems like everybody's ready to go," Ortiz said. "We've been playing well, and that's the shape you want to be in going into the playoffs."

The Red Sox, who missed the playoffs last year, open the AL division series Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park.

Big Papi and Manny will be together in the third and fourth spots in the lineup for the first time since Aug. 28.

"They have about as good a 1-2 (punch) as there is in baseball," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

A strained muscle in his left side kept Ramirez out for 24 games before he returned last Tuesday. Ortiz has been bothered by a sore right knee.

Ortiz's 35 homers and 117 RBIs were the second fewest in his five years with Boston. But he hit a career-high .332 and led the majors with a .445 on-base percentage. He also led the AL with 111 walks and was second with a career-high 52 doubles.

"This might be one of my best offensive years in Boston," Ortiz said. "If I hit 60 homers and I end up with a .320 OBP and a .240 batting average, do I help my team?"

Ramirez finished with 20 homers and 88 RBIs in his seventh year in Boston; the only time he had fewer was as a rookie with Cleveland in 1994.

In the last week of the season, he was 6-for-14. Not once in the entire season did he publicly complain or ask for a trade as he had done in past years.

"I think he's in a real good place. He seems real happy," manager Terry Francona said. "I've witnessed some of the hiccups along the way, but there's also a side of him that we're very proud of."

With Ortiz having an outstanding year, Josh Beckett winning 20 games, Mike Lowell having his best season and Dustin Pedroia in contention for the rookie of the year award, Ramirez has been somewhat under the radar this year.

"I don't know if he cares where the radar is," Francona said.

Ramirez primarily hit second last week to give him a chance for more at bats.

"He's not going to hit second," Francona said.

That improves Ortiz's chances to be even more effective.

"Not a lot of great players get pitched to in (certain) situations unless you have to," Francona said. "With Manny standing back there for all these years, David's gotten pitched to."

Ortiz played all 24 games that Ramirez missed and posted some impressive numbers - eight doubles, eight homers, 24 RBIs, a .318 batting average and a .449 on-base percentage.

"Numbers-wise, it's not" his best season with Boston, Francona said. "Effort-wise, leadership-wise, yeah, it very well may be. He really rose to the occasion when we needed him."

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