Pitch to Papi? Maybe Cardinals should rethink plan vs. David Ortiz

David Ortiz reacts after hitting a single in the eighth inning of the Boston Red Sox's 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series.
(Elsa / Getty Images)

BOSTON — If the St. Louis Cardinals lose another game, they lose the World Series. This ought to be the point when they decide they are not going to let David Ortiz beat them.

“It’s past the point of when I would have done it,” Jarrod Washburn said Tuesday.

When the Angels won the World Series in 2002, Washburn was their ace, and Troy Percival their closer. Barry Bonds played the role of Ortiz.

The Angels beat the San Francisco Giants, in large part because the Angels determined Bonds would not beat them.

“I don’t think I would let Ortiz beat me,” Percival said. “We all can see what he’s doing.”


As the Boston Red Sox try to win the World Series on Wednesday — and clinch at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918 — the most debatable strategy is the one employed by the Cardinals against Ortiz: Let him hit.

Ortiz is batting .733, with the rest of the Red Sox batting .151.

He has batted 11 times with men on base. The Cardinals have walked him four times, one of them intentional. The other seven times up: two home runs, a double, two singles, a ground out and a sacrifice fly that would have been a grand slam if not for a spectacular play by Carlos Beltran.

In the 2002 World Series, Bonds batted 10 times with men on base. The Angels walked him intentionally seven times. In one of the other three at-bats — the only one in which the score was not lopsided — Washburn decided he would challenge Bonds, the same way Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright decided he would challenge Ortiz on Monday.

Bonds delivered an RBI double, just as Ortiz did.

“Every guy in the big leagues that takes the mound says, ‘I can beat him, give me a shot, I think I can do it.’ Sometimes you’ve got to use your head,” Washburn said. “Brains over brawn, I guess, is the saying. You have to swallow your pride a little bit, even if you think you can take him.

“When a guy is that hot, forget the plan. The plan is not to let him beat you. Make somebody else do it.”

The parallel between Bonds in 2002 and Ortiz this year is not an exact one. Bonds was the best hitter on the planet; Ortiz batted .091 in the American League Championship Series (though one of his two hits was a series-turning grand slam in Game 2).

Percival said he did not fault Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny for pitching to Ortiz at first. Benito Santiago, who batted behind Bonds, was not as great a home-run threat as Mike Napoli or Jonny Gomes, who have batted behind Ortiz in this series.

However, five games into the Series and one game from extinction, Percival said he might change the plan against Ortiz.

“Seeing as how he’s hitting .700 and the rest of the lineup is hitting .140,” Percival said, “I might.”

Matheny joked Tuesday that he was receptive to different approaches to pitching to Ortiz.

“If you know of something, I’m all ears,” Matheny said.

From a guy who was there 11 years ago, the best advice on how to pitch to Ortiz is this: Do not pitch to him at all.

“If you’re going to lose, give yourself your best shot, and don’t let him beat you,” Washburn said. “Right now, Ortiz is in one of those grooves. No matter what you throw up there, he’s going to hit it.

“Sooner or later, you have to say what you’re doing isn’t working.”

When your next game could be your last, sooner would be better.

Twitter: @billshaikin