Magical first half comes to close for Big Papi

Magical first half comes to close for Big Papi

BOSTON -- As David Ortiz heads to his 10th and final All-Star Game, he does so after putting together perhaps the most impressive first half of his career.

It was only fitting that in the final game before the break, Ortiz belted yet another home run -- No. 22 of the season and 525 of his career -- in Sunday's 4-0 victory over the Rays at Fenway Park.

"He's been doing it all," said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, one of four teammates flying to San Diego with Ortiz. "He's probably the biggest asset to the team."

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When Ortiz arrived at Spring Training, he vowed that his last season would not be about smelling the roses. Instead, it would be about pounding the baseball and helping the Red Sox win games.

And here Ortiz is, halfway home in his swan song, with a .332 average, second behind only Houston's Jose Altuve (.341).

But the Red Sox don't pay Ortiz to hit for average. They pay him for production, and he leads the Major Leagues in doubles (34), slugging percentage (.682), OPS (1.108) and extra-base hits (57).

The home run allowed Ortiz to break his own team record for the most extra-base hits prior to the All-Star break, one he set back in 2004.

"He did everything but record an out in the field," Red Sox lefty David Price said. "He's done everything, even with a couple of triples and stolen bases. It is pretty special. Even when he gets out, he hits the ball hard. It's been fun to watch. We just hope he keeps it going."

For Ortiz, this is 40.

"Maybe people will stop thinking playing at 40 is bad," Ortiz said. "It's good. I'm fine. I feel like I'm 30. I feel good right now."

Ortiz doesn't seem to be slowing down. The homer on Sunday -- a two-run shot over the Green Monster -- was his third in the last four games.

"You know me," Ortiz said. "I'm always better in the second half."

Why would the Red Sox doubt him after the way he has hit all season?

"It was great," said right fielder Mookie Betts, another Red Sox All-Star. "Can't ask for anything more. He did everything, plus some. I think we all know that he's going to continue to do what he always does."

Backed by Ortiz, the Red Sox are 49-38 and just two games back in the American League East.

For the next two days, he looks forward to soaking up San Diego.

"Definitely," Ortiz said. "It's going to be my last one, so I look forward to being part of it."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.