BOSTON — David Ortiz is human.
It’s a fact that was easy to forget as Ortiz raked for four straight months, and it’s a fact that we’re suddenly being reminded of as the 37-year-old stumbles through his worst slump of the season.
Ortiz went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as the Red Sox dropped Thursday’s series finale to the Orioles 3-2. Ortiz is now 0-for-22 over his last six games, dropping his average from .327 to .310 and his on-base percentage from .408 to .390 in that span.
“[It’s a] timing thing and it looks like he might be trying to figure some things out at the plate, whether that’s thoughts that get in the way rather than just being free of mind and taking his normal swing,” manager John Farrell said Thursday. “But he’s he proving that he’s human. As strong and productive as his year has been, it’s not uncommon for guys to go through a stretch in which he’s in.”
Ortiz, who sat out three games during the Red Sox’ recent West Coast interleague swing, hasn’t collected a hit since Aug. 18 — coincidentally, the same game in which Ryan Dempster drilled Alex Rodriguez, creating a great deal of buzz that eventually included Ortiz. The nine-time All-Star admitted during Boston’s trip through San Francisco and Los Angeles that he was battling general soreness, but neither Ortiz nor Farrell is ready to make excuses for the ongoing skid.
“Hey, I’m a player just like everybody else,” Ortiz said Thursday. “I’m not going to put pressure on myself. We don’t have time for that. Just keep trying. That’s the only way you can get out of it.”
Ortiz downplayed the pressure he’s suddenly facing, but he struck out in a big spot in the eighth inning of Thursday’s defeat. The Red Sox had the potential tying run on third base, as Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second base and advanced to third base when Dustin Pedroia flied out for the second out of the inning. The Orioles called upon Brian Matusz for the lefty-lefty matchup, and Ortiz couldn’t reverse his fortunes against the Baltimore southpaw. Ortiz is now 1-for-19 with 11 strikeouts in his career against Matusz after fanning on a 1-2 fastball Thursday.
“He’s obviously working through some things right now,” Farrell said. “There was no thought of a pinch hit or try to take away from what his strengths are. We’ve seen many times against left-handers where he’s stayed inside the ball with either a ground ball up the middle or a line drive to right-center field. He’s just going through a spell right now where he’s working to get out of it.”
Farrell’s faith in Ortiz is understandable. This is the franchise’s cornerstone and its biggest power threat when everything is right. Regardless of how shaky Ortiz has looked lately, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the Red Sox’ clubhouse who isn’t anticipating a drastic turnaround in the coming days.
“We’re not thinking about sitting him,” Farrell said after Thursday’s game. “He was out with some early work again today trying to get back to the timing that he’s been so good at for other than these last seven, eight games. Yeah, he’ll be in the lineup [Friday].”
Ortiz might be human, and the Red Sox, for the most part, have survived his recent stretch of mortality. Boston could certainly use his superhuman tendencies down the stretch, though.