David Ortiz has given us plenty of reasons to be distracted as of late. While the Red Sox were still desperately clinging to relevancy last July, he ended up removed from a game with an Achilles' injury. He would return for just one game, at a point when Boston's chances had flat lined, and was then out again until April 20, when he finally returned to Boston's lineup. In between, there was free agency, more Achilles' treatment, heel inflammation, another stint on the disabled list, a missed spring training, and a rehab assignment.
Given all of that, it's easy to see how Ortiz's performance itself eluded us. Until Sunday, anyway, when Ortiz notched a hit against the Astros, and became the fourth designated hitter ever with a 20-game hit streak, and the first since Paul Molitor accomplished the feat in 1987.
The other reason this escaped notice? Ortiz has played in just eight games in 2013. His streak doesn't just date back to last season, like Dustin Pedroia's since-snapped on-base streak. Ortiz's hit streak started all the way back in July of 2012.
According to Trent McCotter, the Vice Chairman of the SABR Records Committee, Ortiz began his hit streak on July 2, when he went 1-for-4 with a single against the Athletics. He would then play 10 more games, with at least one hit in each, before exiting on July 16 against the White Sox due to his Achilles. He would come back for one game, on August 24 against the Royals, and picked up two hits before a recurrence of the injury ended his game and season.
Over 302 days and 20 games, Ortiz has hit .471/.558/.743. He went over a month between his original injury and the re-aggravation, yet extended the streak, then missed the rest of 2012, skipped all of spring training after rest and recovery took up the majority of his off-season, and played in a handful of Triple-A games before finally donning a Red Sox uniform once more, and still rattled off at least one hit in each of his first eight games. They weren't all cheap hits, either, as Ortiz has a 1400 OPS with seven of his 16 hits for extra bases.
Interestingly enough for Red Sox fans, the last 20-game hit streak of this length in terms of days, rather than games, was the doing of Nomar Garciaparra, who put together a 323 day stretch between 2000 and 2001. Nomar had undergone wrist surgery to begin 2001 after stringing together a 20-game hit streak to end his 2000, and this resulted in his not returning until July. He would extend the streak by one game in his return, but snapped it the next day with an 0-for-4 showing.
Ortiz has a ways to go before he catches Nomar, but Sox fans are satisfied that he's simply back and hitting well instead of backing his way into this lengthy streak due to injury. That, more than stringing base knocks together in a daily, linear fashion, is far more important to Boston's 2013 chances.
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