Feast Or Famine

Sox can't always look to big three for production

The most troublesome news for the Red Sox in their 13-6 11-inning loss to the Indians in Game Two of the AL Championship Series Saturday had nothing to do with Eric Gagne—whose implosion to start the seven-run 11th surprised the Sox about as much as it did those in attendance—and everything to do with those in the lineup whose surnames are not Ortiz, Ramirez or Lowell.

The relative silence of two-thirds of the lineup was no big deal when the Sox were riding the middle-of-the-order trio of David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell to a convincing sweep of the Angels in the AL Division Series and a 10-3 rout of the Indians in Game One of the ALDS.

But the Indians' ability to quiet the scorching trio over the final half of the Game Two marathon—Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and Tom Mastny held Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell hitless in their final six at-bats Saturday—served as a reminder of how little the rest of the Sox have produced during the playoffs.

Consider:

  • Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell have hit .455 (20-for-44) with six homers, 22 RBI and 17 runs scored. They've drawn 20 walks and struck out five times. The trio has reached base 41 times in 67 plate appearances for an on-base percentage of .612.

  • The rest of the Sox are hitting .223 (27-for-121) with one homer, 13 RBI and 18 runs scored. They've drawn nine walks and struck out 32 times. Overall, they've reached base 36 times in 132 plate appearances for an on-base percentage of .273.

    To break it down further: As solid as Lowell has been (6-for-17, one homer, nine RBI, two walks and one strikeout), the split between the haves and the have-nots of the lineup is clearest whenever neither Ortiz nor Ramirez step to the plate in an inning.

  • When Ortiz and/or Ramirez bats in an inning, the Sox look like the deep run-scoring machine they were supposed to be all season. Every run the Sox have scored this postseason has occurred in innings in which Ortiz and/or Ramirez bats. The Sox are hitting a robust .374 (37-for-99) in those frames with seven homers, 35 RBI, 35 runs scored, 26 walks and 14 strikeouts.

    "That's our responsibility as an organization, to run guys out there where we have enough depth throughout the lineup—or, if people pitch around somebody, it ends up hurting them," Terry Francona said before Game Two. "We've talked about that all the time. If you want to walk somebody, we want them to pay for it."

    But when the Angels and Indians haven't had to worry about Ortiz or Ramirez...

  • In innings in which neither Ortiz nor Ramirez bats, the Sox are hitting a meager .143 (9-for-63) with no runs, three walks and 18 strikeouts. The Sox have gotten just five runners into scoring position, none of whom have advanced beyond second base, and they've recorded just one extra-base hits in these frames (a double by Coco Crisp in the seventh inning of Game One of the ALCS).

    So what's it all mean? It doesn't mean the Sox are a bunch of Punch-and-Judy hitters whenever Ortiz is in the clubhouse watching video tape and Manny is being Manny on the bench.

    And it's a small sample size, to be sure. But nothing can negatively skew the perception of a team (hello, 1991-2005 Atlanta Braves) or a player (hello, Alex Rodriguez) quite like the small sample size of the postseason. But if the Sox fall short of winning the World Series because Ortiz, Ramriez and Lowell couldn't shoulder the load for all of October, much of the blame will fall on the shoulders of the other two-thirds of the lineup.


    Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.
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