It all started so innocently – a pitch from Mike Mussina that David Ortiz put over the wall at Yankee Stadium, scoring Manny Ramirez.
October 8, 2003. Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Red Sox beat the Yankees, 5-2. (Yes, yes, we know what happened later in the series…Aaron…Boo…oo…n…; I can’t say it).
Ten years later, and Big Papi has 14 more postseason home runs – the last of which rocked Yawkey Way Sunday night in a 6-5 win over Detroit in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS.
This time, it was a grand slam, off Joaquin Benoit, tying things up at five in the bottom of the eighth and paving the way for Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s game-winning single that scored Jonny Gomes the next inning.
Mike Mussina and Joaquin Benoit. Two pitchers who’ve watched Papi trot around the bases in the postseason, joining so many more in between. They are Papi’s Punching Bags. David’s Dummies. Ortiz’s Ouch-ies.
Ortiz is now tied with a guy named Babe Ruth for ninth all-time in postseason home runs. No one comes close, by the way, to the guy Ortiz drove in with his first home run in the playoffs (good ole Manny, who has 29).
As Papi ruined the night of Benoit Sunday night, we wonder how others who have let up the long ball to Papi have fared.
Mussina, of course, did OK, with five straight winning seasons to close out his career. Benoit? Well, we’ve just begun to see how Papi’s heroics will affect him. He did strike out Mike Napoli to end the eighth Sunday night, so…so far, so good.
But let’s take a look at how the rest of the Papi Postseason Homer Crew have fared after giving up the long ball to Mr. Ortiz:
Game 7, at Yankees, ALCS, Oct. 16, 2003: David Wells. Papi’s home run made it 5-2 in the top of the eighth. Wells didn’t do too badly the next two seasons, going 12-8 for San Diego then 15-7 for Boston, but he wasn’t the same since, never getting more than nine wins in a year and only one winning record (4-1 with LA in his final season in 2007).
Game 3, vs. Angels, ALDS, Oct. 8, 2004: Jarrod Washburn. This game-winner scored Pokey Reese to close out the series. Washburn was never the same after this home run. He slowly began to fizzle fast with four losing seasons the rest of his career and a win-total high of 10 with Seattle in 2007.
Game 4, vs. Yankees, ALCS, Oct. 17, 2004: Paul Quantrill. Another game-winner, this came in the bottom of the 12th and scored Ramirez. Quantrill? Again, never the same. He logged 69 innings in relief the next year but went downhill from there, never logging more than 37 before finishing in 2005 with five innings for Florida.
Game 5, vs. Yankees, ALCS, Oct. 18, 2004: Tom Gordon. Flash couldn’t tame Papi as Ortiz launched a homer to make it 4-3 in the eighth. Flash was a decent reliever in New York and Philly the next two seasons, but he faded away the final three years before finish up in Arizona with only three appearances in 2009.
Game 7, at Yankees, ALCS, Oct. 20, 2004: Kevin Brown. This came in a two-run first in the Bronx that set the tone for the rest of the night. Brown was all done after this one, with a 4-7 mark with a 6.50 ERA for the Yankees the next year, the final of his career.
Game 1, vs. Cardinals, World Series, Oct. 23, 2004: Woody Williams. This three-run bomb in the first gave the Red Sox an early lead. Williams never had a losing season until the year after Papi homered off him. His career ended in 2007 with the Astros.
Game 3, vs. White Sox, ALDS, Oct. 7, 2005: Freddy Garcia. The first of back-to-back with Ramirez, this tied the game at two. This one didn’t shake up Garcia too much. The White Sox went on to win the World Series, and Garcia won the clinching Game 4 for Chicago. Garcia had two 12-win seasons since, but hasn’t done much after that.
Game 1, vs. Angels, ALDS, Oct. 3, 2007: John Lackey. This one came off new teammate and pal Lackey, who we know now is doing OK. He’s a major part of this current Red Sox run.
Game 3, at Angels, ALDS, Oct. 7, 2007: Jarred Weaver. The first again of back-to-back jacks with Ramirez, this was more than Curt Schilling would need. Weaver? He’s actually been pretty solid. He was a 20-game winner in 2012 and was 11-8 with a 3.27 ERA this year.
Game 5, vs. Rays, ALCS, Oct. 16, 2008: Grant Balfour. This started a comeback rally that led to an 8-7 Sox win. Tampa won the series, and Balfour’s actually turned into a great reliever – with 24 and 38 saves the last two seasons for Oakland.
Game 2, vs. Rays, ALDS, Oct. 5, 2013: David Price (twice). Papi took the Tampa ace deep twice on this afternoon, giving the Sox a 2-0 series lead. Too early to tell now where Price will go, but currently he’s a serious threat to leave Tampa.
So there you have it. Papi’s home run victims in the postseason. Some have done OK. But most? Never the same.