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BIG PAPI SHOWS LITTLE POP AT CRUCIAL TIME

David Ortiz smacked hands with Carl Crawford by the batting cage Thursday and glowered down at him.

"How can you get five hits in one game?" he bellowed, referring to the leftfielder's Game 4 output for the Rays.

Ortiz turned to Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, holding up one finger, then burst into laughter.

"I'm fighting for one ..."

"Big Papi" is not questioned in the defending world champions' clubhouse. His performance since coming to the Red Sox as a free agent in 2003 has earned him that sway.

So has affability and his imposing nature when a topic suddenly displeases him. The topic of his left wrist and the damaged sheath tendon that caused him to miss 45 games this season and sapped his offensive output, that subject displeases him.

The 32-year-old is often the inner voice of the locker room. It was Ortiz who suggested after Boston's Game 1 win at Tropicana Field that the Rays were starstruck in their first playoff game. It was Ortiz who admitted after the Rays' Game 2 win, and subsequent two, that they were playing with the same abandon that had allowed them to take the AL East title from Boston.

But when asked repeatedly about the condition of his wrist after batting .071 (1-for-14) in the first four games of the ALCS and .161 in the playoffs with no home runs and one RBI, Ortiz has refused to answer "the same old questions."

The oldest, but most germane being his wrist.

"I'm okay," he said.

Manager Terry Francona has said only that he doesn't "know if he's perfect," adding it made no sense to sit him because Ortiz can change the tone of a game and a series with one swing. Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed, saying there is no "huge different schematic" to pitching against Ortiz, who is a career .304 hitter with 34 home runs against the Rays.

"We're just lucky," Maddon said. "We're pitching as we think is the right way to go about it, but I don't take anything for granted."

Ortiz's woes are shared by much of the Red Sox roster, but Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie and Jason Bay were enough to carry the team through a four-game elimination of Anaheim in the division series. But with Boston hitting .232 through four ALCS games, scrutiny has compounded on the DH.

"Right now we don't have everyone firing on all cylinders," said Bay, who was acquired in the deadline deal that sent Manny Ramirez - the all-time leader in postseason home runs (28), second in RBIs (74) - to Los Angeles. "I wouldn't put it on one guy."

Ortiz batted .320 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 26 ALCS games before this season. After four games in this one, he was looking for his second base hit.

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