'Greatest Clutch Hitter' proves it
After Ortiz's game-winning homer, he's honored by Henry
BOSTON -- At the end of the night, a plaque that David Ortiz carried with him to yet another hero's news conference said every bit as much as the latest majestic home run the big designated hitter hit to end a game at Fenway Park.
Just 15 or 20 minutes after Ortiz had sent everybody home with a soaring walk-off blast that snapped a tie with one out in the bottom of the ninth and delivered the Red Sox a 3-2 victory over the Angels, principal owner John W. Henry and president/CEO Larry Lucchino took a trip downstairs and brought a gift to the gregarious slugger.
It was a large plaque that said: "The Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, #34."
And who could argue? The gift could have just as easily been delivered last October, when all Ortiz did was lift the Red Sox on his big shoulders and help the fabled franchise win its first World Series championship in 86 years.
"The truth of it was apparent a while back and I asked [vice chairman] Phil Morse to design it," Henry said in an e-mail following Tuesday's game. "He produces just wonderful mementos such as that. We had been waiting for an appropriate time to present it to him. I said tonight to Larry after the home run, 'Let's do it.' He had been keeping it in his office.
"I just couldn't wait any longer. I do wish Phil had been here, but it was the moment. I'm very happy to publicly declare what almost all of us in New England already know -- David Ortiz is the greatest clutch hitter to ever wear the uniform of the Boston Red Sox. I said 'almost' because beginning tomorrow the debate will begin!"
But, at this hour, it's hard to make much of a case for anyone else.
It was the sixth time (including postseason) Ortiz has ended a game at Fenway Park with a home run. The Angels were also victims in clinching Game 3 of the 2004 American League Division Series.
"It's incredible how he does things the way he does them," said veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who worked a complete game to earn the win. "He's Mr. Clutch. He proved that last postseason. He did it again tonight for us."
This one came off a relief pitcher with nasty stuff in Scot Shields. And this one came on a night the Red Sox extended their lead over the Yankees to four games in the AL East. Ortiz's capper came on a 3-2 pitch and served as redemption after he had stranded runners on second and third with no outs in the seventh.
Ortiz's 38th homer of the season smacked a railing that hovers above the runway between the bleachers and box seats in right field.
"It's a good feeling, especially when you have a guy like Wakefield out there performing the way he did tonight," said Ortiz. "You want to do something for the guy. I felt terrible the one inning that I struck out with men on second and third. When the game gets on the line, you get another chance, you have to bring everything you have."
Back on Aug. 20 in Anaheim, Shields had baffled Ortiz on a curveball to strike him out in a crucial situation. So in the final at-bat on Tuesday, Shields began the at-bat with some more tough offspeed stuff.
Papi of walk-offs
|Since joining the Red Sox at the start of the 2003 season, David Ortiz has hit six walk-off homers (including postseason). A glance at those six memorable shots:|
|9/23/03||Kurt Ainsworth||10th||Sox 6, Orioles 5|
|4/11/04||Aquilino Lopez||12th||Sox 6, Jays 4|
|*10/8/04||Jarrod Washburn||10th||Sox 8, Angels 6|
|*10/17/04||Paul Quantrill||12th||Sox 6, Yanks 4|
|6/2/05||B.J. Ryan||9th||Sox 6, Orioles 4|
|9/6/05||Scot Shields||9th||Sox 3, Angels 2|
|*denotes postseason play|
How many more times can Ortiz deliver in such a fashion? Not enough for it to ever get old.
"You never get tired of it," said manager Terry Francona. "That's what he's done so many times, and it's a pleasure to revisit it. He's got power to all fields. He knows if he squares the ball up, he can hit a homer to left-center to right, it doesn't' matter. He puts the barrel on the bat, and man. ... We've seen it so many times. I hope we see it a bunch more."
There have also been many clutch efforts from Wakefield over his decade-plus in Boston, and this was just the latest example. In this one, Wakefield notched victory No. 15, scattering eight hits and allowing two runs while striking out seven.
For the second time in three days, the Red Sox were able to close down the bullpen. David Wells pitched a complete-game gem on Sunday.
"I felt good in the 'pen and I felt good early in the game," said Wakefield. "I got some strikeouts. I was able to stay away from [Vladimir] Guerrero a little bit. Those guys played some great defense behind me to leave me in the game for nine innings."
Wakefield's chance at a win seemed in jeopardy in the ninth, when Bengie Molina led off with a double. But then came a big play, as John Olerud made a diving stop on a Casey Kotchman grounder, getting the out at first. With pinch-runner Zach Sorensen on third and one out, Wakefield induced pinch-hitter Steve Finley into a 4-2 groundout. Then he struck out Adam Kennedy, putting the Red Sox in the type of sudden-death situation they have so often capitalized on over the last few years.
Wakefield suspected the team's other slugger -- left fielder Manny Ramirez -- might be the one to end it. Ramirez knew better.
Said Wakefield: "I told Manny, 'You're gonna win this thing.' And he said, 'No, David said he was going to win it for us.' "
So Ramirez stood in the on deck circle and admired the parting shot, along with everyone else. And then a familiar mob scene unfolded, with Ortiz lifting off his helmet before a collection of teammates took jubilant fists to the top of his head.
"Yeah, dude, you have to [remove the helmet], otherwise they beat me up," said Ortiz. "Trot Nixon and [Kevin] Millar and [Doug] Mirabelli, they smack you. They hit like [Mike] Tyson out there."
And yet again, it was Ortiz delivering a knockout punch courtesy of his bat at Fenway Park.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.