Boston's 'Big Papi' Shines In World Series
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The World Series returns to Boston tomorrow. With last night's win over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Red Sox now lead the series three games to two, which means that the Sox have a chance to win a World Series at home at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years.
NPR's Mike Pesca has been covering the series and joins us now from New York. Hi, Mike.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.
SIEGEL: And we've got to start with David Ortiz, Big Papi, hitting .733 the series. .733, how amazing is that?
PESCA: He is, well, let's say he's very, very good. He's amazing. He's doing so well, you know, he's made four outs in the World Series and one of them, by the way remember, went over the fence. Carlos Beltran just snagged it out of the bullpen, so really kind of almost a home run as well. And he did come into the series - obviously he hit that huge grand slam in the championship series.
But if you weren't paying attention you might not have known that he really only went 2-for-21 in the championship series. So would he get on track? Yes, he's gotten on track. He had the second-highest batting average, second-highest on-base percentage of anyone ever in the World Series. And when you compare it to everyone ever, I mean his hits are so - I hate to use the word - impactful. But they have changed games and the Cardinals just have no idea what to do with this guy.
SIEGEL: Yeah, he's also walked four times, we should note. Ortiz can hit obviously.
SIEGEL: Can the Cardinals - you say what can they do about him - I guess I can walk him every time. Huh?
PESCA: That's the weird thing. The Cardinals have been pitching relatively well, but it's almost as if they haven't game-planned for David Ortiz. I mean I looked up what the Angels did against Barry Bonds, who was in an equivalent situation in 2002 when he was so good - and he was by far the best hitter on the Giants - and they walked Bonds a ton. They walked him three times in Game 4. Bonds averaged less than three at bats again. But Ortiz is not being pitched around.
And I think I found they are being guided perhaps by illogic. Wainwright, Adam Wainwright said after the game, you know, why did you pitch to Ortiz with first base open? And Ortiz had a big hit and scored the first run of the game yesterday. And Wainwright said, you know, the last game Sunday night we pitched around him and the guy behind him burned us.
Well, the guy behind him was Jonny Gomes, who has that - he burned them. He did get a home run but that was his only hit the whole series. So they're taking that one occurrence, a very small sample size, letting it guide them and not pitch him or not like allow lefty relievers to try to get him out. I don't know, I just think that what the Cardinals are doing - it's easy for me to say - obviously the facts show that Ortiz is killing them. But the things the Cardinals are doing, like Adam Wainwright is moving around on the pitcher's mound like he's not used to, that's not what I would do to him. I would either avoid them or go at him hard.
SIEGEL: Well, in addition to Ortiz, the Red Sox pitching has been very good. They're closer, Koji Uehara, is terrific.
SIEGEL: But St. Louis also has some pretty good pitching.
PESCA: Right, except for that 8-1 game and four those runs in the first game were not earned, this has been a very well-pitched series. It's just that the hits have come at huge times and usually from the bat of David Ortiz. In the next game, we're going to see the best Cardinals pitchers so far, Michael Wacha. And he's 22. I don't know if any of this pressure and any of this David Ortiz-ness will get to him. It doesn't seem like it got to him in the first game.
Wait. Oh, Ortiz did have a home run. But that was a really all that he did against them.
SIEGEL: Well, the Red Sox are up 3-to-2, two games to play in Boston now. It would appear that momentum is on the side of the Sox. But history hasn't been kind to Boston at Fenway in the World Series.
PESCA: Why? What are you talking about? They won in 1918.
PESCA: So yeah, if you look at all the stats of the teams in Boston's position, up 3-2, hosting two games. Those teams have won the World Series 20 times and they've lost it six. So it seems like Boston is in a good position. The Cardinals, on the other hand, they've been down three games to two in the World Series six times and they've won five of them.
I think the home-field does play into it. And I think, you know, you can always go by what happened in 1964 and say - and point to it and say that's what's going to happen in 2013. I think Big Papi will have a big say too.
SIEGEL: OK. Thanks, Mike.
PESCA: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Mike Pesca in New York. He'll be in Boston for Game 6 and, if need be, Game 7 of the World Series.
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