David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
ST. LOUIS - Only once during last night's Game 5 did we have any indication that David Ortiz indeed is human.
It was in the eighth inning, after Ortiz legged out an infield single -- yes, you read that correctly -- by slapping a ground ball into the right side of a personalized shift.
That was his third hit of the night and marked the 10th time Ortiz had reached base safely in his last 11 plate appearances. But after he narrowly beat Matt Carpenter's throw by a half-step, it took a while for Ortiz to decelerate as he sputtered along the rightfield foul line.
When Ortiz finally came to a stop, he leaned over and put both hands on his knees. Had Big Papi finally blown a gasket? Does he really get winded like the rest of us?
Manager John Farrell rushed out with a trainer, but Ortiz remained in the game.
And Red Sox Nation exhaled.
"Just getting old, man, too much running," Ortiz said afterward. "I've been playing the field the past three days and I'm not used to it. But you got to do what you got to do at this stage. Like they say, no pain, no gain."
To borrow a nickname, you can call Ortiz "The Big Hurt'' for the punishment he's inflicted on the Cardinals lately.
Monday night's 3-1 victory gave the Red Sox a 3-2 edge, with the series shifting back to Fenway Park. That puts the Red Sox on track for their third title in the last 10 seasons, and in anticipation that they will close out the Cardinals in another day or two, we'll just give Ortiz the Series MVP award right now.
"The one thing we don't want to do is get too far ahead of ourselves," Farrell said. "But he's in a really good place, obviously."
Other than commandeer a duck boat down Boylston Street, there's not much left on the Big Papi agenda.
Two homers? Check.
Six RBIs? Check.
A ridiculous 2.017 OPS? Check.
Series-saving dugout pep talk in Game 4? Check.
What else do you want to see? Ortiz even picked up a glove and played first base for the three games at Busch Stadium. Granted, he didn't have to do much over there. Dustin Pedroia handled everything on that side, to the point that Ortiz jokingly put his hands up to catch a pop-up as Pedroia sidled up beside him to grab it.
Ortiz was just having fun, and for good reason. He's not a tough out, he's an impossible one. When he drilled a rocket line drive to centerfield that was caught in the sixth, it was the first time he made an out since the second inning of Game 3.
"What planet is that guy from?" David Ross said.
His own, clearly. Among players with at least 10 plate appearances in one World Series, Ortiz ranks second all-time in batting average (.733) and on-base percentage (.750) to the Reds' Billy Hatcher, who went .750 and .800 in 1990. Overall, Ortiz is hitting .465 (20-for-43) for his career in the Fall Classic, which is the best among players with at least 50 plate appearances.
Last night, Ortiz put a quick dent in Adam Wainwright with an RBI double in the first inning. Pedroia already had ripped a one-out double, and there was some question whether Wainwright would pitch around the scorching-hot Ortiz. But he didn't, and Ortiz hooked the first pitch past the diving Allen Craig to give Jon Lester an early leg up.
"I haven't played with many superstars," Lester said, "but this guy is the epitome of a superstar. I don't think you could ask for any more from an individual than what he does on and off the field."
Lester, seated next to Ortiz during the postgame interview session, called him a Hall of Famer. A few minutes earlier, Ross referred to Ortiz using the nickname "Cooperstown."
Ortiz could wind up there someday. We'll see how that positive PED test from 2003 factors into the vote. But in the meantime, with the World Series set to resume Wednesdaynight at Fenway Park, the Red Sox have unfinished business.
Ortiz might just be getting warmed up. When asked about the damage he's done in this five-game stretch, he looked surprised.
"I did it like 20 times this year," he said. "I was born for this."