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Ortiz continues to make Twins pay

5/19/2013

MINNEAPOLIS -- David Ortiz has told the story many times of his first spring with the Red Sox, how he morphed from being a raw hitter to "Big Papi" after the team removed the shackles the Minnesota Twins had placed on him early in his career.

The story usually goes something like this: Ortiz returned to the dugout after his groundout helped advance a runner, following the small-ball approach the Twins had hard-wired into him, when then-Red Sox manager Grady Little said to him, "You're not on the Twins anymore. You've got to drive that runner in."

Ortiz has spent the better part of his career making the Twins pay for their repression. He entered Saturday's game with a career .323 average, 13 homers and 37 RBIs in 52 games against Minnesota, and on Saturday night, he gave the Twins another painful reminder of what they could have had at Target Field had they kept Ortiz all these years, instead of letting him go after the 2002 season.

Ortiz hit two homers -- posting his 40th multihomer game and his first since June 25, 2012 -- and drove in six runs in the Red Sox's 12-5 romp over the Twins. It was Ortiz's 38th multihomer game with the Red Sox, passing Ted Williams for most in team history. Ortiz also reached base four times in five plate appearances. And in a park that's supposed to be tough for left-handed hitters, Ortiz continued to look right at home.

He now has homered five times in 10 career games at Target Field, driving in 16 runs in those games and batting .500 in the Twins' ballpark, which opened in 2010. At this point in his career, Ortiz has done so much in a Red Sox uniform that his time with the Twins will be little more than a footnote, and he has conducted such a thorough assault on his old team that he even admitted it doesn't give him much of a thrill these days.

"It used to be [special], but not anymore," he said. "I just go about my business. You guys have seen me. I try to hit the moon every time I go to hit anywhere. It's not new."

The Red Sox, however, have to be grateful for Ortiz's timing. They had lost nine of 11 after beginning the season 20-9, dropping three of four against Minnesota earlier this month, when Ortiz caught fire. He is 8-for-15 in his past four games, driving in eight runs in that time, and the Red Sox have won them all.

They were able to overcome a ragged pitching performance from Ryan Dempster on Saturday night, and while Ortiz spread the credit around when asked what was going right for the Red Sox, it was hard not to make him the focal point of it.

"Certainly, the performance is as good as you're going to find around the league right now," manager John Farrell said. "This is a guy that's got a long history and a lot of production. He hits both lefties and righties, as we saw again tonight, and it's the consistency with which he goes about his work. ... It's no coincidence he has the performance he does. He's a very good hitter who has the ability to combine average and power."

Ortiz's 17th year in the majors has already been eventful, whether he was grabbing a microphone to rally Bostonians after the Boston Marathon bombings or lashing out at the suggestion that performance-enhancing drugs could be behind his production at age 37.

His on-field performance alone, though, has been astounding. He is hitting .362 for the season, having blasted seven homers and driven in 29 runs in only 24 games. Ortiz said his sore left oblique muscle is continuing to get better, and if he stays healthy the rest of the season, the man who has finished in the top four of the American League MVP race four times might finally have a shot to win the award for the first time.

He certainly has benefited from playing his old team in its new ballpark. The Twins, undoubtedly, will be happy not to see Ortiz at Target Field again this season after Sunday.

"The one guy we say don't let beat us is David Ortiz," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They've got a lot of really good hitters over there, but we told them, 'Stay away from this guy. Don't give into him.' He keeps sending souvenirs."