The Road Worrier: David Ortiz cooling down?

Jan-Christian Sorensen
Contributing Writer

While David Ortiz has been assembling a scorching-hot season since returning from his Achilles injury in mid-April, his stats took an extended ice bath on Boston’s recent road swing.

During the seven-game trip to Tampa Bay and Baltimore, Ortiz went three-for-26 (.115) with one home run and one RBI, was held hitless in four of those games and slugged .308.

Contrast with that his most recent six-game home stand, where he went seven-for-27 (.259) with three homers — including a dramatic, ninth-inning walk-off bomb against the Texas Rangers on June 6 — and drove in a dozen while slugging .741.

Is Big Papi’s sudden, chilly turn at the plate a cause for concern, or merely a blip?

Looking at the season so far, it’s clear that as Big Papi goes, so go the Sox. And vice versa.

The Sox went 3-4 on the recent road trip as Ortiz struggled. Conversely, at the end of April as the Sox reeled off wins in six of seven, Ortiz recorded five multi-hit games, hitting .481 with three homers and 13 RBI. 

When the team went through its mini-slump at the start of May, dropping eight of 12, Ortiz was likewise frigid at the dish, going seven-for-39 (.179) with one homer, two RBI and a slugging percentage of .333. Granted, some of the blame for that particular slide of Ortiz's can be blamed on a sore oblique muscle, but the Big Papi Barometer was back in effect when the Sox busted their skid in mid-May: the Sox won ten of 14 from May 14 to 27 and Ortiz was a major factor, going 19-for-52 (.365) with four homers, 17 RBI and a .635 slugging percentage.

Studying the numbers, Ortiz's most recent trouble on the road appears to be nothing more than a hiccup.

On the first three road trips in which he played this season, he was as steady as ever. April 30 to May 6 against Toronto and Texas, Ortiz hit .316 with two homers, three doubles and six RBI. At Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Chicago May 14 to 22, Ortiz went 14-for-36 (.389) with three homers and 14 RBI. And on a mini road swing to Philadelphia and New York from May 29 to June 2, Ortiz hit .308 with a pair of homers, two RBIs and four walks.

Overall, there’s not much discrepancy between his home and road numbers. At Fenway, Ortiz is hitting .301 (SLG .592) with six homers and 26 RBI. Away from Boston, he’s hitting .287 (SLG .596) with eight homers and 23 RBI.

Ortiz will aim to get the home cooking going again Tuesday as the Sox play host to Tampa Bay for three games over two days at Fenway, but the numbers aren’t in his favor — this season, Ortiz is batting only .190 against the Rays.

It’s important to remember, however, that with Big Papi, power is only part of the package. His love for the game, his teammates and city combined with his genuine affability and gregarious personality is enough to let even the most jaded Sox booster give the 37-year-old designated hitter a pass, even if only temporarily.

After the myriad highlight-reel moments he’s given Sox fans in his 11-year career in Boston to date, he’s more than earned the benefit of the doubt.

Twitter: @jan_doh