BOSTON -- From the outset of this Major League Baseball postseason through the first five games of the World Series, it has been a difficult period for hitters with few exceptions.
David Ortiz would be a rather large exception.
Boston's venerable designated hitter obviously missed the memo that pitchers were going to rule October. He is not merely faring well against the young, dynamic pitching staff of the St. Louis Cardinals. He is taking them apart the way a Viking devours a mutton leg.
Or, as the Red Sox's Game 5 hero David Ross put it so well late Monday night, "What planet is that guy from?"
Ortiz's numbers in the World Series are stupid good. In the context of the way it has gone for most hitters on both sides, they are difficult to process. You could call them fantasy league numbers but nobody has fantasies like these.
All the soon-to-be-38-year-old slugger is doing is batting .733 (11 for 15) with a .750 on-base percentage. Ortiz is slugging at a preposterous 1.267 clip, resulting in an otherworldly 2.017 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
To put those numbers in proper context, the rest of the Red Sox are batting a combined .151. Suffice it to say that Boston would not be on the verge of winning its first World Series at home since 1918 if not for Ortiz's remarkable contributions at the plate.
To the contrary, the Red Sox likely would be on the brink of elimination entering Game 6 on Wednesday night at Fenway Park if not already packing their bags for the offseason.
"I haven't played with many superstars but this guy is the epitome of a superstar and a good teammate," said left-hander Jon Lester, who put Boston on the brink of its third crown in 10 years by out-pitching Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright for the second time in the Series in a 3-1 victory in Game 5 at Busch Stadium on Monday night.
"I don't think you could ever ask for more out of an individual than what he does, on and off the field. It's been unbelievable to see him do the things he does on the field. It's pretty special. You don't get to play with many Hall of Famers but I'd like to call him a Hall of Famer."
That will be decided by voting baseball writers after Ortiz's career is done, but it certainly doesn't hurt your Cooperstown resume -- and by the way, "Cooperstown" is what Ortiz's teammates call him -- to shine brightly in the postseason.
Ortiz is batting .476 (20 for 42) in the World Series for his career, the best average of any player with at least 50 plate appearances. With five home runs this postseason, he has 17 for his career. His 14 runs batted in during World Series play ties Dwight Evans for most in Red Sox history.
St. Louis has used every strategy possible in trying to deal with Ortiz. They've pitched around him when possible. Wainwright decided to challenge him and see what happened in Game 5 and Ortiz had his second consecutive three-hit game, his only out coming on a rocket to deep center field.
In the first inning, after a one-out double by Dustin Pedroia, Wainwright came right at Ortiz and he ripped a first-pitch double down the right-field line to give Boston a quick 1-0 lead.
"He hit a good pitch," said Wainwright. "Made a good swing. He's just out-of-his-mind hot right now."
"They've tried a lot," said Ross, who has closely watched Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina to see what the approach has been with Ortiz. "David's just, he's just, he's David Ortiz. That says enough.
"This guy is a postseason stud and a stud in general. That's why we call him 'Cooperstown,' because he does Hall of Fame stuff."
To keep the erstwhile designated hitter's bat in the lineup in the three games in St. Louis, manager John Farrell started Ortiz at first base. There were concerns he might be a defensive liability but nothing untoward happened. And, considering what Ortiz did at the plate, that decision became a no-brainer.
In the Busch Stadium interview room after Game 5, Ortiz was asked if he could remember ever hitting this well over a five-game span.
"I did it like 20 times this year," replied Ortiz, drawing considerable laughter from the assembled media.
But Ortiz didn't laugh. You got the idea that he thinks what he's doing should not be considered outrageous, at least not by his standards.
Before another question could be asked of Ortiz, he said, "I was born for this."
That would appear to be true, considering the past and current performances on the game's biggest stage by the massive man they call "Big Papi." He insists the Cardinals are pitching him tough but you would never know it by the results.
"They have a great pitching staff," said Ortiz, who has bounced back strongly from an uncharacteristic 2-for-22 showing against Detroit in the American League Championship Series. "It's a battle when you face that kind of pitching. I've got my mind-set.
"I've been playing this game for so long, and when I go to the plate I try to look for a strike and try not to get out. That's pretty much what I've been doing all year."
Ortiz was limping a bit after Game 5, having done more running around than usual with his constant barrage of hits and play at first base.
"You've got to do what you've got to do, especially at this stage," he said. "The World Series, you've got to help your ballclub to win games.
"Like they say, 'No pain, no gain.'"
In this World Series, Ortiz has been inflicting far more pain than he has absorbed. Just ask the St. Louis pitchers. Then go look at those crazy offensive numbers again.
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