With a laser beam of a grand slam in the eighth inning on Sunday night, David Ortiz essentially saved the Red Sox’s World Series hopes and further his cause as the greatest clutch hitter of his generation. But no matter how you feel about “clutch,” there’s no denying the numbers.
The homer was Ortiz’s 15th in the postseason, tying him with Babe Ruth for ninth place on the all-time list. Two of those were walkoff shots. It gave him 54 RBI in 72 games, moving him past Albert Pujols for fifth place there:
Most postseason RBI
80 – Bernie Williams (.850 OPS in 121 games)
78 – Manny Ramirez (.937 OPS in 111 games)
63 – David Justice (.717 OPS in 112 games)
61 – Derek Jeter (.838 OPS in 158 games)
54 – David Ortiz (.933 OPS in 72 games)
52 – Albert Pujols (1.046 OPS in 74 games)
48 – Reggie Jackson (.885 OPS in 77 games)
47 – Chipper Jones (.864 OPS in 93 games)
42 – Jim Edmonds (.874 OPS in 64 games)
42 – Jorge Posada (.745 OPS in 123 games)
Ortiz’s rebirth as a force after it looked like he was done as a major asset in 2009 has added to what would have been a very tough sell as a Hall of Fame case. He had an exquisite run from 2003-07, finishing in the top five in the AL in the MVP balloting every year, but because he’s a DH, he did little before age 27 and he’s still lacking in black ink (one home run title, two RBI titles), it was going to take that clutch rep to put him over the top. Now, after three more seasons as one of the AL’s elite hitters, he has much more solid career numbers to add to his case and he’d seem to be a likely choice if not for the steroid allegations that will always hang over his head. Even with the leaked positive test — for what, we’ll apparently never know — he may garner enough support once the doors are eventually opened for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
The Braves clinched a postseason berth with Saturday’s 10-1 win over the Nationals. Now, the only question is whether they’ll get there with an NL East division title or via one of two wild card spots currently up for grabs.
Granted, things are looking pretty good on the division title front. After losing their second straight game to the Braves, the Nationals sit 10.5 games back of first place in the NL East, and every other division rival is at least 15 games out. The Braves, meanwhile, carry a magic number of four; should they clinch, it’ll be their 19th franchise title and 14th since they migrated to the East division in 1994.
They certainly looked like postseason contenders on Saturday. Mike Foltynewicz led the charge with six innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball, limiting the Nationals to four hits while rookie right-hander Austin Voth kept the Braves scoreless through 5 2/3 frames. Things started to tip in Atlanta’s favor in the sixth inning: Nick Markakis put the team on the board with an RBI single, and a four-run breakout in the seventh helped cement a sizable lead. Over the last three innings, the Braves found opportunity after opportunity against the Nationals’ bullpen, capitalizing on walks, throwing errors, and productive outs as they climbed toward a double-digit finish.
The win didn’t come without some sacrifice, however. The Braves lost Charlie Culberson to a facial injury after he was struck by a Fernando Rodney fastball in the seventh inning, and they’ll likely be without him for the remainder of the regular season — pending a formal diagnosis, of course. Culberson’s loss isn’t the only one the club is feeling right now, either, as Johan Camargo ended his season with a hairline fracture in his right shin and Freddie Freeman is playing through a minor bout of elbow soreness after making an early exit from Friday’s 5-0 shutout.