David Ortiz hits career homer No. 400

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David Ortiz became the 49th player in big-league history to reach 400 homers when he took Oakland’s A.J. Griffin deep in the fourth inning Wednesday.

It was Ortiz’s 22nd homer of 2012, putting him into a tie for fifth place in the American League. The 36-year-old will be the AL’s starting DH in next week’s All-Star Game.

Ortiz’s Hall of Fame chances appeared next to nil a couple of years ago, but his big resurgence has put him back into the discussion. He has a chance at 500 career homers, and he turned in an outstanding five-year peak from 2003-07 in which he finished in the top-five in the AL MVP balloting every year. He also helped lead the Red Sox to World Series championships in that span.

Of course, there is the steroid taint, even if the only thing that ties him to it is that a couple of lawyers reportedly said his name was on the “anonymous list” of players testing positive in 2003.

Regardless, Ortiz is on pace for a historic season. He’s on pace to become the fifth different player in major league history to hit at least .300 with 40 homers and 100 RBI at 36 or older. Babe Ruth did it twice, Hank Aaron once, Andres Galarraga twice and Barry Bonds three times.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.