BOSTON -- The Red Sox now have an unofficial team motto when they are trailing or tied in their final at-bat. It goes something like this: Get David Ortiz to the plate somehow, someway.
For it seems that if the Red Sox can just do that, there's a very slim chance they'll lose. There they were Monday night, down two runs with two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth. Did anyone at Fenway actually think the Indians were going to survive this mess?
Once again, Ortiz ended a game with one mighty cut. This one was a majestic three-run homer to center, struck off a 96-mph heater from Indians reliever Fausto Carmona, who was pitching in his first save situation since the trade of Bob Wickman. Just like that, the final was Red Sox 9, Indians 8.
It was Ortiz's fifth walk-off hit this season and 15th (including postseason) since joining the Red Sox in 2003. Amazingly, it was the ninth time Ortiz has gone deep to end a game in his Red Sox career.
"We've seen it so often," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "The whole inning we're sitting there thinking, 'Let's just get David to the plate.' Obviously, because he's the middle of the order, and that means guys are on and we have a chance. But he just has the ability to take such good swings in those situations. He doesn't do anything different. I think he's smart enough to know the pressure is on the other team, even though we're down."
And with that one swing, Ortiz lifted everyone up. This, after Trot Nixon was placed on the disabled list before the game and catcher Jason Varitek had to leave the contest with a twisted left knee. The trading deadline might have passed without the Red Sox making a move, but Ortiz made it a joyous evening anyhow.
"For the club today, everybody was like, 'OK, we're here, so let's play how we know how.' Now we know that this is the group we're going to have all year round, so you just keep it going," said Ortiz.
Nobody has kept it going at the rate of Ortiz. Consider what his numbers are since July 31, 2005. In a span of 161 games, Ortiz has crushed 60 homers and driven in 166 runs.
With two months still to play in 2006, Ortiz has numbers (37 homers and 105 RBIs) that even the best players in the game would be proud to have for a full season.
|Since joining the Red Sox at the start of the 2003 season, David Ortiz has hit nine walk-off homers (including postseason). A glance at those nine memorable shots:|
|Sept. 23, 2003||Kurt Ainsworth||10th||Sox 6, Orioles 5|
|April 4, 2004||Aquilino Lopez||12th||Sox 6, Jays 4|
|Oct. 8, 2004 *||Jarrod Washburn||10th||Sox 8, Angels 6|
|Oct. 17, 2004 *||Paul Quantrill||12th||Sox 6, Yanks 4|
|June 2, 2005||B.J. Ryan||9th||Sox 6, Orioles 4|
|Sept. 6, 2005||Scot Shields||9th||Sox 3, Angels 2|
|June 11, 2006||Akinori Otsuka||9th||Sox 5, Rangers 4|
|June 24, 2006||Tom Gordon||10th||Sox 5, Phillies 3|
|July 31, 2006||Fausto Carmona||9th||Sox 9, Indians 8|
|*denotes postseason play|
"That's unbelievable," said Red Sox outfielder Wily Mo Pena. "I just asked him, 'How do you do that, so you can teach me?'"
It was Ortiz's second game-ending hit in three days, and it kept the Red Sox a game in front of the Yankees in the American League East, where a loss would have tied the standings.
"He's not flying under the radar at all," said Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli. "Obviously, they know David Ortiz is at the plate. They have scouting reports and try to execute. He's good enough to fight off pitches that he can't drive. He just has the knack that when he does get a pitch to hit, he hits it."
As dramatic as it was, Ortiz didn't win this game on his own. He was set up in the ninth when Alex Cora led off with a single and Kevin Youkilis worked a walk.
"You can see the place getting electric," said Francona. "A.C. leads off with a hit, Youk has a great at-bat. I know it calls a lot of times for a bunt, but we try desperately not to take the bat out of [Ortiz's] hands."
Pena, who will be the primary starter in right field until Nixon returns, helped the Sox keep pace through the zany early and middle innings, coming within a double of the cycle. His contributions included a mammoth solo homer and a two-run triple to right-center field.
On a night the Red Sox got David Wells back in the rotation after a two-month hiatus, the big pitching performance came out of the bullpen, where Kyle Snyder replaced a faltering Boomer with 4 1/3 brilliant innings in which he allowed one hit, no walks and struck out six.
"I'll be glad to talk about David, but I hope what doesn't get overlooked is what Kyle Snyder did," Francona said. "That was unbelievable."
Snyder was supposed to start on Tuesday night, but when Wells got in trouble early, Francona had to go find a long man. Enter Snyder, who will now be replaced by Jason Johnson for Tuesday's start.
The hope was that Wells, with his fluid throwing motion and fresh left arm, could breathe some fresh air into the Red Sox on a night he was pitching for the first time in more than two months. But Boomer struggled, giving up eight runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings.
The Red Sox and Indians traded haymakers all night, but the Indians seemed to steal the momentum when Casey Blake hit his second homer of the night off Wells, a three-run shot to left that gave the Indians an 8-6 lead in the fifth.
Snyder settled things down, and Ortiz created mayhem in the end.
What was Ortiz looking for when the count got to 2-0?
"A pitch to hit," Ortiz said. "That guy is throwing some good pitches out there. You don't want to get too picky. You just want to get a pitch that you can drive."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.