David Ortiz walked into the Red Sox dugout after one of four outs during Sunday afternoon's 12-5 Sox win over the Mets, threw up his hands and vented toward hitting coach Dave Magadan.
"Why is this happening to me?" the slugger bellowed.
Without flinching Magadan explained how he saw it.
"It's happening to you," the coach said, "because you can handle it. I truly believe that."
The Red Sox scored 12 runs on 16 hits. Tim Wakefield won his sixth straight decision at Fenway Park. And the team woke up in Minnesota Monday in first-place in the American League for the first time since July 17, 2008.
Yet the dominant line of conversation in the Red Sox' clubhouse following their 26th win of the season was how exactly Ortiz is handling his current lot in life. (Even actor Rob Schneider, who was a post-game visitor, seemed concerned about Papi's state of mind.)
While the 0-for-7 with 12 stranded baserunners in Anaheim was one new low, Sunday's 0-for-4 -- and the three-game series with Mets, in general -- offered an entirely new level of despair for Ortiz.
The Red Sox' No. 3 hitter (for now, anyway) finished the set with New York going 0-for-12 with a walk, striking out seven times. Nobody in baseball fanned more in the past three games.
Then there is the introduction of Mario Mendoza and his 'line' into the equation. In case you didn't know, the "Mendoza Line" is a .200 batting average, a level Ortiz hadn't been looking up at since last May 2. He now stands at .195.
It is why the next shoe to drop -- more specifically, a move out of the third spot in the Sox' lineup -- figures to be right around the corner.
"It's something we're going to discuss," said Magadan of moving Ortiz down in the order. "We'll probably talk about it on the flight. We want to do what's best not only for David, but what's best for the team. He's got to be a big part of our offense. By no means do I feel like he's at the end of his rope. He's got a lot of baseball left in him and he's got a lot of confidence in him. He's one of our main guys. We've got to get him going."
Oh yeah, and, once again, the Red Sox are in first-place. But before we get to that, and some other things we gleaned Sunday. There's more to digest in regards to Ortiz.
A NEW APPROACH TO PAPI
The question posed to David Ortiz immediately after the Sox' win was simple. "Have you ever seen so many fastballs in any series?"
"Never," said Ortiz, punctuating his statement with a stare before reiterating the stance. "Never, never!"
On Sunday, Ortiz saw 14 pitches, all of which were fastballs. The day before 19 of the 20 pitches he faced were heaters. And these weren't solely the well-documented fastballs in on the hands which had been giving the slugger so many problems. These were inside, outside, up and down. There were even a few 91 mph "Here it is, I dare you to hit it" offerings.
"If you see a guy not hitting something, what are you going to do? You're not hitting something why should they stop?" Ortiz lamented. "That's the way the game goes. When the things are not going good it's going to happen. Now, when things turn around, it don't matter what they throw because I'm going to hit it."
Until that time, Ortiz might be best served focusing on the fastballs, judging by the success of the Mets over the weekend.
"Obviously he has to make the adjustment," Magadan said. "Early in the year he got it in his head he was going to get fed a lot of off-speed. Manny [Ramirez] wasn't hitting behind him and I think that was in his head and he started looking for off-speed more than he was looking for fastballs. Now he has to make the adjustment.
"I think right now, it's so mental with him. As a hitter you almost expect something bad to happen and that makes you wait on pitches. It's kind of like being an infielder and not wanting the ball hit to you. Same thing as a hitter. If you go up there as a hitter and expect something bad to happen, something usually will."
ALMOST EVERYBODY ELSE IS HITTING
With the exception of Ortiz, it was difficult to find fault in the Sox' lineup.
Going from top to bottom ...
Jacoby Ellsbury: Extended his hit streak to a career-best 19 games thanks to a second-inning double. During the stretch, which started May 2, the Sox leadoff man is hitting .326 with six doubles, a triple, four RBI, 12 runs, five walks and eight stolen bases.
Dustin Pedroia: Tied a career-high with three walks (going 5-for-10 in a series while hitting in front of somebody carrying a sub-.200 average will do that). He heads to Minnesota hitting .329 with a .423 on-base percentage, and is already more than half way (26) to his walk total of a year ago (50).
Ortiz: You know the story.
Kevin Youkilis: Hit a three-run homer in the seventh to salt the game away after launching one in the fifth over the left field foul pole that was close enough to warrant a second replay by the umpires in as many days. (It marked the first time since replay was instituted on Aug. 28, 2008 that it was utilized in the same ballpark on successive days. This season replay has been used nine times, with three instances resulting in the call being over-turned).
As a quick aside, diehard Red Sox fan Judy Blais of Barre, Vermont was positioned perfectly atop the left field wall behind the foul pole and insists the umpires got it right in regard to Youkilis' homer. "I'm a huge Red Sox fan, but unfortunately, it was definitely foul," she said.
J.D. Drew: Four hits. More on him later.
Jason Bay: A hit, a run, an RBI. He didn't have the best of series, going 1-for-11, and has cooled off a bit of late (now hitting .253 in May). But is still hitting a gaudy .341 with runners in scoring position.
Mike Lowell: Highlighted a solid series (.308) with one of his most decisive Fenway Park home runs, a three-run blast in the second inning off the Sports Authority sign in left.
George Kottaras: Saw his batting average jump up 67 points to .200 with three hits, two of which were doubles. Perhaps his most important hit came in the fifth inning when he launched a Tim Redding two-out offering off the base of Red Sox bullpen wall to bring the Sox within a run.
"I told him a couple of days ago, 'I don't care if you hit .120.' He's doing such a good job behind the plate for us and for me," Wakefield said. "His role on this team is to do what he does behind the plate. I thought it was great that he got three hits. Two doubles, two hard-hit doubles today, and a single. I think it's awesome that he was able to come through offensively, too."
Nick Green: It should be noted that it was Green who put the Red Sox up for good, immediately following Kottaras' fifth-inning double with a two-run single. In case you didn't notice, Green is still hitting over .300 (.309), while walking just four times in his 98 plate appearances.
In their never-ending quest to have balance up and down the order, here is how the Red Sox' spots in lineup currently rank in regards to batting average throughout the major leagues: 1. 5th (.295); 2. 8th (.313); 3. 29th (.206); 4. 3rd (.317); 5. 7th (.292); 6. 10th (.279); 7. 19th (.248); 8. 25th (.237); 9. 2nd (.287).
THE STARTERS ARE SETTLING IN
Wakefield has had better starts, this time allowing five runs over six innings, but no matter. But the Red Sox are now 7-2 in the knuckleballer's starts this season, including a 4-0 mark at home. And, most importantly, he continued a rotation-wide trend.
Throughout the Red Sox' latest homestand their starters combined to total a 2.92 ERA, totaling 40 innings in the six games. As a group, it has now managed to creep out of the basement when it comes to the worse ERA in the American League, passing Baltimore and Cleveland.
As a staff, the Red Sox pitchers finished off the homestand with a 2.83 ERA, fifth-best of any collection in the majors over that span.
"We're making pitches and that's what we're here for," said Sox starter Josh Beckett. "We're starting to give the proper amount of innings, which is what we're here for. As a staff, with the exception of one or two guys, I think we definitely have had to dig into the bullpen quite a bit. Think we're starting to do what we're supposed to be doing."
YOUR NEXT NO. 3 HITTER?
If the Red Sox do make a move to move Ortiz down the order, it might be made a lot more seamless, thanks to Drew.
With Sox manager Terry Francona preferring to employ the right-lefty-righty dynamic from the 2-thru-4 spot in the order, Drew seems like the logical candidate to slide into the three-hole, especially considering the way he's swinging the bat.
For the ninth time in his career, Drew collected four hits, and is now batting .393 over his last eight games. His May average is up to .304 with a .415 on-base percentage, and has gone 3-for-7 in his two games hitting No. 3 this season.
He is also showing no preference for left-handers or righties, hitting virtually the same against both (.270 vs. lefties, .271 against right-handers).
"There's probably a zone, but I don't believe I'm in it," said Drew, who references last June (12 home runs) as probably his closest flirtation with 'The Zone'. "If I was in it, I'd have got those hits that I hit rockets on (Saturday) night."
MOTHER NATURE ADDED SOME SPICE
First came the thunder. Then the lightning. And that was followed by hail, which led to a downpour and a subsequent 36-minute rain delay.
And to top it all off ... a post-game rainbow that ended almost directly on Fenway Park's second base.