BOSTON – The banner hangs from a light pole on the sidewalk outside Fenway Park.
It is a profile of a smiling David Ortiz and has the words “OCTOBER BASEBALL” beneath it.
He is, literally, the face of the Boston Red Sox franchise.
This is, once again, his time of year.
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“I don’t think you could ever ask for more out of an individual than what he does on and off the field,” Boston pitcher Jon Lester said. “The guy’s got a heart of gold.”
And a bat that keeps smacking balls past fielders and over fences.
One victory from his third championship in 10 years, Ortiz will take a .733 batting average in this World Series into Game 6 on Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Only Billy Hatcher did better in a series, .750 in 1990 for the Cincinnati Reds when they swept the Oakland Athletics.
But strong 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 victory. He batted .308 in a four-game sweep.
The Colorado Rockies saw it in 2007, when Ortiz went 3 for 5 in a 13-1 rout in Game 1. That time, he hit .333 in another sweep.
This year, he enters the potential clincher with 11 hits in 15 at-bats in the best-of-seven Series, which Boston leads 3-2. He has two homers, two doubles, six runs batted in, five runs and four walks.
Ortiz has one-third of Boston’s hits against St. Louis. Meanwhile, the rest of the Red Sox are batting .151.
“I was born for this,” he said.
Strikeouts in this Series? None.
And perhaps the best designated hitter in baseball even fields flawlessly at first base.
In three games in St. Louis under National League rules, Ortiz handled all 23 chances without an error after playing a mere six games there — also without an error — during the regular season.
It has 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.
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright made a decision to pitch to Ortiz in the first inning of Game 5 on Monday night in St. Louis. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game by striking out, but Dustin Pedroia doubled to left. Up strode Big Papi with first base open. He doubled.
“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.”
Ortiz also has helped the team with his voice.
With the Red Sox trailing 2-1 in Game 4, Ortiz huddled 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.”
Moments later, Jonny Gomes hit a three-run homer that sent Boston to a 4-2 victory.
“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, light-hitting catcher David Ross lined a run-scoring double that snapped a 1-all tie in the seventh inning of a 3-1 victory.
“He’s David Ortiz. That says enough,” Ross 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 is hoping he has just one game left this year to do even more.
If necessary, Game 7 would be Thursday at Fenway Park. Boston hasn’t won a World Series title on its home field since 1918.
“I guarantee it’s going to be wild,” Ortiz said. “We’ve got the best baseball fans and we enjoy this. Hopefully, this will get over (Wednesday) and they’ll get to enjoy it like they always do. Party time.”
• Because the team charter — with family members also aboard — had mechanical problems, the Cardinals flew to Boston at about 6:10 p.m. PDT Tuesday after a delay of roughly six hours.
“Fortunately, we have plenty of food, snacks for the kids, lots of entertainment with onboard movies and everybody travels with all their high-tech stuff,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
• Gold Glove winners for fielding excellence were announced and Boston and St. Louis each have two. Second baseman Pedroia and right fielder Shane Victorino earned AL Gold Gloves. Wainwright and St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina won NL Gold Gloves.