Red Sox ALDS Game 2 Match-up: David Ortiz vs Fernando Rodney

Jim Rogash

With his ability to get on base and crush righties, David Ortiz is the last player Fernando Rodney wants to face with the game on the line.

Coming off a complete game performance against the Rangers in game 163, David Price takes the ball on Saturday in a place where he has been extremely successful. Price has been better at Fenway than almost anywhere else, with a 6-1 and the lowest career ERA of any park where he has tossed at least 50 innings at 1.88. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Price will be opposed by John Lackey, who has been excellent at home this season, with a 6-3 record and a 2.47 ERA in 13 starts. If Price and Lackey’s season stats and these small Fenway samples are any indication, we can expect a low scoring game on Saturday that may well come down to the bullpens. If that is the case, the match-up between David Ortiz and Fernando Rodney could be extremely significant.

Rodney has not been the lock-down closer he was in 2012 this season, posting a 3.38 ERA with 37 saves in 45 attempts. One of his eight blown saves came against Boston on May 16, when Rodney suffered a major lapse in his control and gave up a bases-loaded double to Will Middlebrooks to turn a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 loss. Ortiz was the second batter Rodney walked that inning and it is his mix of power and patience that makes him so dangerous for the Rays closer.

Ortiz is 3-13 with two home runs in 16 plate appearances against Rodney in his career. He also has three walks (two intentional) and three strikeouts, but that small sample is less important than the larger body of Big Papi’s work against righties this season. Only AL home run champ Chris Davis hit righties better than Ortiz this year. Papi slugged an incredible .652 against them and walked slightly more often than he struck out. This is extremely problematic for the Rays ninth-inning man. Rodney walked 15 percent of the lefties he faced this season, allowing them to reach base 10 percent more often than righties and slug .065 higher. Rodney is generally very good at limiting opponents ability to hit for power with his ability to get groundballs and keep hitters in the park, but power-hitting lefties like Ortiz are his Achilles heel in that respect.

The match-up between Rodney and Ortiz may not happen on Saturday, but if the series goes beyond three games, there is a good chance it will come up at some point. If it does, the Rays have every reason imaginable to take the drama out of the situation. If Rodney is able to avoid pitching to Ortiz, he will probably just hand the big man a free pass. If that isn’t an option when these two finally meet, however, David Ortiz will have another good shot at adding to his impressive list of October heroics.

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