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Papi coming on strong down the stretch

Papi coming on strong down the stretch

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KANSAS CITY -- His first two months a complete loss, David Ortiz's 2009 season has turned out to be far better than that. When the left-handed slugger hit a 418-foot blast for a three-run homer on Wednesday night, it gave him 25 for the season to go along with 88 RBIs.

Starting with Thursday's series finale in Kansas City, there are 11 more games for Big Papi to add on to those numbers. The one area Ortiz never really recovered was batting average, which is at .234. But all in all, he will take where he is at.

"Like I always say, a bad season for me is a good season for another guy. You know what I'm saying?" Ortiz said. "One of my boys told me the other day, 'You know what, I'd take your numbers any time if I'm going to arbitration.'"

When Ortiz is in a groove, the Red Sox have an increased presence offensively.

"If he starts or continues to swing like that, obviously it's a big bat," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Any time you're one pitch away from a three-run homer, it gives the other teams something to think about and gives you a good chance."

With October around the corner, Ortiz knows his teammates will be counting on him. It is something he relishes.

"This is a team that definitely, when I do well, the team does well," Ortiz said. "I've been doing that for years here. That's why I try to get my work in and try to show the guys that it doesn't matter how things are going, you have to keep on going. When I hit, good things happen. I guess sometimes I take pressure off the guys when I do my thing out there. The good thing about the whole situation is even when I was struggling really bad, guys would step up and get it done."

Now that Ortiz is getting it done again, he can scoff at some of the critics from earlier in the season.

"I think with the numbers I have already this year, those guys that were checking out my age, I think this should stick in their mind," Ortiz said. "You know what I'm saying? People thought I was looking for excuses and thinking in the wrong direction when you struggle a little bit. That's something that at the end of the day, it's sorry analysis. People always have to look at things the right way. Anybody can struggle. Anybody can bump into a bad year. Just see the good things and the positive things."

The Red Sox have a magic number of five for clinching a postseason berth.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Clay Buchholz (6-3, 3.49 ERA)
The wiry right-hander continues to come of age, firing one solid outing after another. Buchholz's most recent start was a 3-1 victory over the Orioles, in which he gave up five hits and one run over six innings. Though Buchholz was hardly overpowering, striking out one, he found a way to get the job done. Buchholz has eight quality starts. Opponents are hitting .248 against him. Buchholz has pitched just once in his career against the Royals, taking the loss on a day he gave up seven hits and four runs over six innings.

KC: RHP Anthony Lerew (2009 debut)
Lerew was called up from Double-A Northwest Arkansas to fill an opening in the rotation, created by arm ailments to Kyle Davies and Dusty Hughes. Lerew went 10-6 with a 4.09 ERA in the Texas League and also was 2-0 with an 0.60 ERA in the playoffs. His Major League experience is 11 games with the Braves in 2005-07, including an 0-2 record in three starts. His last start was against the Red Sox in an Interleague game on May 19, 2007, at Fenway Park. Lerew lasted just two innings and was charged with three runs on five hits including homers by Kevin Youkilis and the since-departed Julio Lugo.

Tidbits
Ortiz became the third Boston player to hit at least 25 homers this season, joining Jason Bay and Youkilis. ... Victor Martinez will try to extend his career-high hitting streak to 23 games on Thursday. ... Dustin Pedroia has a 15-game streak in progress. ... J.D. Drew is hitting .336 over his past 36 games.

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
• WEEI 850, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 14-7, 3.33) at Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 8-6, 4.72), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 3-5, 6.80) at Yankees (CC Sabathia, 18-7, 3.31), 4:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (Paul Byrd, 1-2, 6.04) at Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 13-7, 4.15), 1:05 p.m. ET

Ian Browne 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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