- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia offered a spirited, and colorful, defense of David Ortiz on a night that the slump-ridden slugger struck out twice and hit into two double plays, the second with the bases loaded in the eighth inning that nearly short-circuited Boston's winning rally.
Adrian Beltre walked to reload the bases in the eighth, and Jeremy Hermida's fly ball dropped behind Wall-challenged outfielder Juan Rivera for a tie-breaking, three-run double, spurring the Red Sox to their second straight win over the Angels, 5-1.
Afterward, Pedroia was in rare form when asked if he felt sorry for Ortiz.
"David's fine,'' he said. "He's one of our teammates. It could have been me who hit into a double play. It happens to everybody. He's had 60 at-bats."
Ortiz actually has 67.
"A couple of years ago I had 60 at-bats and I was hitting .170 and everybody was ready to kill me, too. What happened? Laser show.
"I'm tired of looking at the NESN poll, why David's struggling. David's fine. He's one of our teammates. We believe in him. He came out of it last year, he's going to come out of it this year.
"I'm going to go online and vote on NESN.com: 'Papi's fine. Thanks for playing.' ''
Ortiz left seven runners on base Tuesday night, striking out with runners on second and third to end the first; rolling into a double play with runners on first and second to end the third; striking out to end the sixth; and grounding to second baseman Howard Kendrick with the bases loaded and nobody out in a 1-all tie in the eighth, with Kendrick starting a second-to-home-to-first double play.
Statistically, Ortiz is at the bottom of the heap among American League hitters with at least 50 at-bats. He is batting .149, an average above only two other AL players, Tigers catcher Gerald Laird (.141) and Yankees DH Nick Johnson (.134). Johnson's saving grace is that he has drawn 22 walks, so his on-base percentage is .363. Laird's OBP is .236, just below Ortiz's .240, but Ortiz has more strikeouts (25) than both of them.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona started Ortiz on Tuesday against right-hander Ervin Santana even though Mike Lowell, whom Francona has been using against lefties, reached base five times in Monday night's 17-8 win, with three doubles. Lowell doubled in Boston's final run of the night Tuesday while pinch hitting for Darnell McDonald.
"I thought [Lowell] swung the bat great,'' Francona said before Tuesday's game. "I also think that we're trying to look at the big picture. Adrian [Beltre] swung the bat very well, too. We need David. If we DH Lowell, somebody's going to sit.
"Whether it's juggling or whatever term you want to use, we're trying to win tonight, tomorrow, the next day. I'm not trying to get ahead of myself, but I think we're doing the right thing.''
After the game Tuesday, Francona deflected a question about whether Ortiz would be in the lineup Wednesday night with the Angels starting another right-hander, Joel Pineiro, but hinted that would be the case. Ortiz has a .391 average with two home runs in 23 career at-bats against Pineiro.
Asked if he thought it necessary to reassess how he intended to use Ortiz, Francona said, "I wasn't planning on it tonight, before I came up here. We've done some things we haven't done in the past. Some of that is because of the personnel we have. Mikey Lowell is sitting over there, a good hitter.
"At the same time, running away from David is not the best answer in my opinion. Again, we try to balance it the best we can. We need him to hit, as opposed to running away from him.''
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
1hTony Lee, Special to ESPN.com