Ortiz finds himself in thick of All-Star loss
Slugger thrown out at second in ninth-inning rally; Lester shines
ANAHEIM -- A night earlier, David Ortiz was in his element, swinging for the fences and carting home the trophy that crowned him the champion of the State Farm Home Run Derby. But there Big Papi was during crunch time of Tuesday night's All-Star Game, in just about the toughest possible position he could be in on the bases.
After leading off the bottom of the ninth with a single to right against flamethrowing Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, Ortiz went halfway to second on a one-out bloop to right by John Buck. Marlon Byrd, who is a superb outfielder, was just short in his pursuit to catch the ball. But Byrd quickly whirled and fired a bullet to second, and just like that, Ortiz was forced out.
It wound up going in the books as a 9-6 fielder's choice, and it thwarted the American League's comeback hopes in what wound up a 3-1 loss.
One of six Red Sox players to make the trip to Anaheim for the All-Star Game, Ortiz was still in high spirits after the game, knowing there's not much he could have done.
"Wrong place. Wrong time. And the wrong guy, too," said Ortiz. "I saw him where he was playing, but everybody knows that Marlon Byrd is a guy that has great speed in the outfield. So I saw him coming in [and] I thought he was going to catch it. I didn't want to get caught into a double play -- just get thrown out once and take your chances. I just got [caught] in between and it bounced in front of him, and he made a good throw to second base."
A veteran outfielder, Byrd knew it was just one of those plays where everything had to come together perfectly.
"When you're in center field, you can't make that play," Byrd said. "But when you're on the corners, where I was the last six years, you've got a play. You have to know how to read the ball, get a great hop when it comes up, make the throw. I got all of those elements, and we got the out."
As a reserve, Ortiz got two at-bats, striking out looking against Matt Capps and then getting wood on the first pitch he saw from Broxton, a 95-mph heater. Ortiz had never faced Broxton. When Dustin Pedroia hit a walk-off single against Broxton on June 19, Ortiz was waiting in the on-deck circle.
"I know he throws bullets," Ortiz said.
Adrian Beltre, Boston's third baseman, did not dispute that scouting report. He came into his first All-Star Game in the top of the eighth inning for defense, and his first at-bat was against Broxton, just after Ortiz had led the ninth off with a single.
Broxton poured in a 97-mph fastball for a strike looking. The big righty reached 97 again on the next pitch and Beltre swung through it. But Broxton had even more in his tank, ripping a 99-mph heater that seemed to be rising as Beltre missed it.
"It wasn't pretty. He gave me a good pitch to hit, but I wasn't able to make contact," Beltre said. "I wasn't trying to reach for any ground-ball hit. I was trying to go deep in that situation. I didn't want to hit a ground ball and have to run and maybe screw up my leg, so that's what happened."
Beltre was referring to his left hamstring injury that he suffered on Sunday in Toronto. He will undergo an MRI on Thursday in Boston to make sure he isn't the latest Red Sox player who will have to join the walking wounded.
Despite his strikeout -- and the AL coming up short for the first time since 1996 -- Beltre would not trade his All-Star experience.
"Everything was good," Beltre said. "Just being in this clubhouse with All-Stars -- guys that you idolize, guys that you've played against -- just to be here and be a part of it is awesome. The experience yesterday, the Home Run Derby, was great. Coming here, you don't know what to expect, but it's been fun."
Jon Lester performed the best of Boston's All-Star contingent, firing a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth. It was a big spot in the game also, as the AL had just taken a 1-0 lead. Of Lester's 18 pitches, 11 were for strikes. He got Hanley Ramirez on a hard grounder back to the mound, Martin Prado on a popup to short and Adrian Gonzalez with a grounder to second.
"It's like a playoff game," said Lester. "It's like when we faced [the Angels here] last year in the playoffs, so it was fun."
Boston's three other All-Stars -- Pedroia, Clay Buchholz and Victor Martinez -- are all on the disabled list and were reduced to spectator status.
But they still enjoyed the experience. Pedroia was his enthusiastic self, hopping along from one station to another in crutches, and riding a freight elevator out to batting practice.
"Yeah man, it's fun," Pedroia said. "It's fun to see guys doing good things. Half of us [Red Sox All-Stars] can't even play. But it's exciting."
Though Pedroia is the ultimate gamer when it comes to regular-season games, he didn't mind serving as a spectator only in this one.
"It's actually kind of better," Pedroia said. "You don't have to worry about the game. I remember a couple of years ago, you did all this [other] stuff and then you have to try to lock it in and play. I'm just taking it all in, seeing all these guys."
The disappointment of not being able to pitch in the game started to hit Buchholz in the hours leading up to Tuesday night's game.
"It would have been fun," said Buchholz, who is on the disabled list with a left hamstring injury. "Like I said, this gives me more of a drive to make it again in the future and actually be a part of it."
Because the Red Sox consider themselves a World Series contender, they would have loved to set up home-field with a win in the All-Star Game.
"I mean, at some point, it had to end," Beltre said of the AL's streak. "Unfortunately, it was this year. They played good and got a big hit in that inning with the bases loaded, and that was the game."
Ortiz didn't look ready to lose any sleep over the result.
"It happens," Ortiz said. "That's a Major League Baseball team, too. You play to win, but if they win, what can you do about it? Maybe next year."
What about opening the World Series on the road, something the Red Sox didn't have to do in 2004 or '07?
"It doesn't matter -- as long as they have airplanes," Ortiz said.
And on that note, Ortiz and his All-Star teammates got ready to leave Anaheim and fly back to Boston, where they will open the second half on Thursday night at Fenway against the Rangers.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.