He had his most recent hit on Aug. 18, a ninth-inning single off the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera. Since then, Ortiz is 0-for-22. During Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he went 0-for-4, including a pair of strikeouts, the second ending the eighth inning with the potential tying run on third base.
“Even Papi struggles,” Ortiz said. “I’ll be back.”
It’s not that Ortiz is swinging at bad pitches. There isn’t a hitch in his swing. He believes he’s simply swinging and missing. But when he’s going through a skid like this, he doesn’t feel comfortable in the box.
“Not good,” he said. “But I’ll be all right. I’m just missing some pitches, but I’ll be fine. I’ll be back.”
During the club’s road trip through San Francisco and Los Angeles, Ortiz was bothered by tightness in his lower back, but he insists that isn’t hampering his swing.
“Just keep on fighting. There’s nothing else you can do. Keep on battling, it’s part of the game,” Ortiz said.
Can one swing fix it all?
“Sometimes,” he said. “Now, when I go 11-for-11, like I did before, you better come and ask me questions too.”
Ortiz began the season with a 15-game hitting streak. Other than his current skid, his longest hitless slump of the season was a three-game stretch in May. Overall, he’s hitting .310 with 24 homers and 79 RBIs.
“He’s just been inconsistent [lately],” Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez said. “It’s been a long season and he’s been as consistent as anybody in the major leagues, a hundred-and-some games before you see him struggle, so it’s part of the game.
“He’s one swing from getting a hit here or there and getting back on track. The way he works, it’s simple and it’s day in and day out. This guy goes about his business the right way. I don’t see him struggling for long.
“He knows what he needs to do. He’s been there before. This isn’t the first time he’s gone 0-for-20-something. This year is the first time I’ve been around him and I’ve been very impressed the way he goes about it. One at-bat doesn’t affect the other. Right now, as any other player, [he’s] trying to do a little too much. A hit here or there will get him back on track and get him to slow things down.”
Ortiz is seven hits shy of 2,000 for his career. He’s also one home run short of recording the ninth 25-homer season of his career. If he is pressing, he’s not showing it despite the numbers.
“I’ll show up with my whole package tomorrow and turn this around,” Ortiz said.
Even with Ortiz’s struggles, the Red Sox are 6-3 since his most recent hit (he sat out three of those games) and they remain 2½ games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East.
“We need to try to keep on winning,” Ortiz said. “Tampa right now is on our ass.”