BOSTON -- And the Angels thought they had problems with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
Ten times Friday night, Ortiz and Ramirez came to the plate in Fenway Park, and 10 times they reached base, combining for four hits, five walks and four runs to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 10-3 thrashing of the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
“I’ve never seen anything like it -- they’re unbelievable,” Boston third baseman Mike Lowell said. “They’re aggressive, they’re patient, they’re picking their spots . . . they just have such solid at-bats.”
Compared to the Indians, the Angels practically contained the slugging duo -- Ortiz and Ramirez reached base in “only” 19 of 26 plate appearances in Boston’s division series sweep of the Angels.
Ortiz and Ramirez kicked it up a notch Friday. Among the highlights were two Ramirez at-bats in which the cleanup hitter came back from 0-and-2 counts to work bases-loaded walks, from Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia in the third inning and reliever Aaron Fultz in the sixth.
“I told Manny, he was 0-2 twice, and he was able to spit on those pitches, tough pitches, and draw a walk,” said Lowell, who followed Ramirez’s third-inning walk with a two-run double. “I asked him, ‘Are you just fouling balls off to mess around or what?’ For them to get on base like they did today is a little bit ridiculous.”
Ortiz, who has reached base in 16 of 18 plate appearances in four games this postseason, singled in the first, was hit by a pitch and scored in the third, walked and scored in the fifth, walked in the sixth and doubled in the eighth.
Ramirez, who has reached base in 13 of 18 plate appearances in the four playoff games, hit a run-scoring single in the first, walked and scored in the third, singled and scored in the fifth, and walked in the sixth and eighth.
“That’s kind of extreme,” Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said. “I thought it was a real professional approach tonight.”
Said Ortiz: “We’re professional hitters. We know what we’re doing. We work out every day. We have an approach. I don’t think it’s new for you guys to watch me and Manny hitting. We keep it simple. That’s how it is.”
Red Sox ace Josh Beckett completely out-pitched Sabathia in a battle of Cy Young Award candidates, allowing two runs and four hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking none, while the Indians left-hander was rocked for eight runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
A control freak who struck out 209 and walked 37 in 241 innings this season, Sabathia seemed out of sorts Friday, just as he did in Game 1 of the division series last week. Sabathia walked six in five innings of his win over the Yankees and walked five -- one intentionally -- and hit a batter Friday.
“I felt good, I wasn’t really overthrowing, and the atmosphere didn’t get to me,” Sabathia said. “It was just pitch selection, not really sticking with the game plan. I was really upset with myself for not being aggressive, coming after guys. I guess you could say this was a wasted opportunity.”
Sabathia struck out the side on 11 pitches in the second and retired the side in order in the fourth, but he gave up a run in the first, four in the third and three in the fifth, allowing the Red Sox to take an 8-1 lead.
“I wasn’t being myself, I was getting to 0-2 and kind of pitching around guys, which I normally don’t do,” said Sabathia, who had a good fastball but struggled to command his changeup. “It came back to hurt me, and it really hurt the team.”
The lopsided score gave Francona the luxury of pulling Beckett after six innings and 80 pitches, a move that would put the Red Sox ace in line to start Game 5 Tuesday on three days’ rest and a possible Game 7 on Oct. 21 on regular rest, a prospect that is about as appealing to the Indians as facing Ortiz and Ramirez.
“They’re a constant threat, whether it’s swinging the bats or taking pitches,” Cleveland third baseman Casey Blake said. “They have a couple of the best swings in the game and a couple of the best eyes in the game, and that’s a tough combination for a pitcher, especially when you have good hitters around you.”