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Big Papi aims to break out

Papi aims to break out

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NEW YORK -- This doesn't happen often. David Ortiz is officially in a slump.

Though Ortiz knocked in a run in Wednesday's game against the Yankees -- who didn't? -- that was the extent of his production. Ortiz finished hitless in five at-bats a night later, dropping his average back down to .111. He has just one home run and four RBIs.

Still, this is Big Papi -- perennial MVP contender and heart of the Red Sox's lineup. Only time seems to stand between him and the game where everything finally clicks.

"Sometimes, you hope a guy throws a ball in and it all gets in sync," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Sometimes, it's also a process. If it took you 10 days to get there, it might take you 10 days to get back. But I think he's making progress."

Ortiz made a minor adjustment to his stance before this week's series with the Yankees, and Francona believed the change might have helped. Then again, maybe not.

"I thought [Wednesday] he was a little bit more spread out, a little bit lower," Francona said. "And by saying that, you can stand anyway you want, but I thought he looked a little bit more comfortable. He took a swing at a fastball, first at-bat, didn't get it, but he had everything behind it and was on time. And he hit the ball to right field."

Instead, Ortiz will look to improve against the Rangers, a team he hit only .222 against last year. But a return to Fenway Park might help. Ortiz is a career .318 hitter in Boston, even if he hasn't yet recorded a hit in five games there this season. Perhaps this upcoming homestand -- seven straight games against the Rangers and Angels -- can spark a change. If not, the Sox might be content to ride Manny Ramirez's hot bat instead.

"If he doesn't hit," Ramirez said, "I'm going to hit for him."

This series begins on Friday night in Boston, with Daisuke Matsuzaka gunning for his fourth straight win. The Rangers will counter with right-hander Luis Mendoza.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-0, 2.70 ERA)
The Red Sox have won all four of Matsuzaka's starts, though he was the first to admit that he didn't deserve credit for his last win, which came over five shaky innings against the Yankees on Sunday night. Matsuzaka threw 116 pitches, walked six and struck out two. He allowed five hits and four runs. Matsuzaka pitched just once against the Rangers last season, earning the win despite allowing seven hits and five runs over five innings. Still, his outing was impressive, with Matsuzaka pitching through an extreme case of the flu.

TEX: RHP Luis Mendoza (0-1, 1.80 ERA)
The Red Sox will get a firsthand look at what they gave up when they sent Mendoza to the Rangers on July 30, 2006. Mendoza was signed by Boston as a free agent out of Mexico on June 12, 2000. He lost his first start of the season -- and the fourth of his career -- to the Blue Jays on Saturday, allowing four runs (one earned) in five innings.

Tidbits
Ramirez is batting .522 with four home runs over his last six games. ... No current Red Sox player has faced Mendoza. ... The six Rangers who have a history against Matsuzaka have produced a .353 average and an .824 slugging percentage off him in 17 combined at-bats. ... The Red Sox won six of 10 games against the Rangers last year.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WRKO 680, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 1-2, 5.31) vs. Rangers (Jason Jennings, 0-3, 8.79), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 1-0, 3.18) vs. Rangers (Kevin Millwood, 1-2, 2.42), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (Clay Buchholz, 0-1, 6.75) vs. Rangers (TBD), 11:05 a.m. ET

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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