BOSTON – The banner hangs from a light pole on the sidewalk outside Fenway Park.
It’s a profile of David Ortiz with that infectious smile and the words “OCTOBER BASEBALL” beneath it.
He is, literally, the face of the Red Sox franchise.
This is, once again, his time of year.
“I don’t think you could ever ask for more out of an individual than what he does on and off the field,” Boston ace Jon Lester said. “The guy’s got a heart of gold.”
And a bat that keeps smacking balls past fielders and over fences.
One win from his third championship in 10 years, Ortiz will take a .733 World Series batting average into Game 6 on Wednesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. Only Billy Hatcher did better in a single series, .750 in 1990 for the Cincinnati Reds when they swept the Oakland Athletics.
But such World Series displays are nothing new to the only player left from the team that won the Red Sox their first championship in 86 years.
St. Louis saw that on Ortiz’s first at-bat of the 2004 Series when he hit a three-run homer in Boston’s 11-9 win. He batted .308 in a four-game sweep.
The Colorado Rockies saw it in 2007 when he went 3 for 5 in a 13-1 rout in Game 1. That time, he hit .333 in another sweep.
Now, he enters the potential clincher with 11 hits in 15 at-bats in this Series. He has two homers, two doubles, six RBIs, five runs and four walks.
Ortiz has one-third of Boston’s hits against St. Louis, while the rest of the Red Sox are batting .151.
“I was born for this,” he said.
Strikeouts in this Series? None.
And the best designated hitter in baseball even fields flawlessly at first base.
In three games in St. Louis under NL rules, Ortiz handled all 23 chances without an error after playing just six games there — also without an error — during the regular season.
Indeed, it’s been a charmed month for Big Papi, who has even legged out a few infield hits lately — albeit with the second baseman often playing 50 feet or so out in right field.
Slugger. Speedster. Fielder.
Is there anything David Ortiz can’t do?
“Hopefully, it won’t get to that point,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday.
How about making more than one out in a game?
Ortiz hasn’t done that either in a World Series in which he’s all but locked up the MVP award if the Red Sox can finish off the Cardinals.
“He’s a guy that you still have the ultimate respect for because of what he’s done in the biggest situations,” Boston outfielder Daniel Nava said.
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright made the mistake of pitching to Ortiz in the first inning of Game 5 on Monday night. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game by striking out, but Dustin Pedroia doubled to left. Up strode Big Papi with first base open.
“I don’t like walking anybody,” Wainwright said. “Got a guy on second already. It’s the first inning. He hit a good pitch. He’s out of his mind right now.”
It didn’t matter much that the 19-game winner fanned the next two batters. Ortiz already had done his damage.
He’s also done it with his voice.
With the Red Sox trailing 2-1 in Game 4, Ortiz huddled his teammates in the dugout for a pep talk before the sixth inning.
“I’m the veteran dude on this team, that’s why I have to say something,” he said. “I sensed everyone was feeling down, frustrated, like a sinking boat.
“I told them, ‘Don’t do anything more than you’re capable, don’t force things out.’ I mean, if you’re a David Ross, don’t try to do things as if you’re David Ortiz,” he said.
Moments later, Jonny Gomes hit a three-run homer that sent Boston to a 4-2 win.
“The way he treats us, the way he treats the fans, you would never know he’s a superstar,” Gomes said. “I truly can’t say enough good things about him.”
One day after Gomes’ homer, the light-hitting Ross lined a run-scoring double that broke a 1-all tie in the seventh.
“He’s David Ortiz. That says enough,” the catcher said. “The guy is a postseason stud, and a stud in general. That’s why we call him ‘Cooperstown,’ because he does Hall of Fame stuff.”
Ortiz went just 7 for 35 in 10 AL playoff games this month. But he came up with some big blows — two homers in a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the division series, a tying grand slam in the eighth that sent Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter tumbling into the Boston bullpen in Boston’s 6-5 win that tied the ALCS against Detroit at one game apiece.
Now, Ortiz hopes, he has just one game left this season to do even more.
“I guarantee it’s going to be wild,” he said. “We’ve got the best baseball fans and we enjoy this. Hopefully, this will get over tomorrow and they’ll get to enjoy it like they always do. Party time.”