Twenty game-winning moments by Boston’s Big Papi.
Yesterday, my back was hurting, the Red Sox lost (Schilling clobbered, Nixon and Varitek hurt), and my cat Pesky disappeared. Today, my back feels fine, the Red Sox won (in Big Papi fashion), and Pesky came home. What a difference a day makes. So here’s my latest installment (adding two more to the list) in the Big Papi chronicles.
Game-winning hits and walk-off drama. David “Big Papi” Ortiz delivers when it matters most. David Ortiz is the best baseball player that I have seen in my lifetime. Strong praise, but you run out of adjectives after so many game-winning hits. See also this summary from The Boston Globe:
20. 2006-07-31, Red Sox 9, Indians 8. This was a key game. The Sox, having not made a deal at the trade deadline, opted to go with the team they have and not sacrifice the future. David Wells made his third start of the season after coming off the disabled list for the third time. Wells pitched OK at times but gave up 8 runs over 4 2/3 innings. Plenty of time for Kyle Snyder to stop the bleeding and for Ortiz to deliver once again. Oh yeah, it was his second home run of the game. After the game, Ortiz talked about staying calm at the plate. I love Francona’s quote about how the pressure is on the other team in these situations.
“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…. [S]aid Red Sox manager Terry Francona, ‘I think [Ortiz is] smart enough to know the pressure is on the other team, even though we’re down.'”
19. 2006-07-29, Red Sox 7, Angles 6. Ortiz beat the shift with a single in the 11th inning to win this one. And he admitted that he was trying to beat the shift.
“The Sox never led during regulation play but pulled ahead went it counted, walking off with the win in the 11th on David Ortiz’s third RBI single of the game. Ortiz, who was responsible for four of the seven runs, also homered…. How many times can Ortiz leave Fenway Park as a walk-off hero? Saturday’s single with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning — placed perfectly through the vacated hole at shortstop and into left-center — was the 14th time Big Papi has ended a game with one swing since joining the Red Sox for the start of the 2003 season. This one wrapped up a highly satisfying, 7-6 uphill climb of a victory over the Angels in a game that Boston trailed, 6-3, heading into the bottom of the eighth.”
18. 2006-07-06, Red Sox 12, Devil Rays 5. Although Ortiz technically didn’t have the game-winning hit since he didn’t drive in the sixth run, Ortiz did drive in six runs and his two home runs carried the Sox on a night they needed a win to avoid a series sweep.
“[N]obody can doubt that Ortiz is perhaps the foremost money player in baseball. With his team in desperate need of a win, Ortiz basically carried everyone on his back again, belting two homers, including a grand slam, and driving in six runs, leading the Red Sox to a soothing 12-5 victory over the Devil Rays.”
17. 2006-06-26, Red Sox 8, Phillies 7. This was a day game, so I didn’t get to watch it, but I did have the MLB Gameday window open on my computer. And I knew what to expect when Big Papi came to bat.
“Charlie Manuel wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. After Mark Loretta doubled, representing the winning run in the 11th inning against the Phillies on Monday afternoon, the Phillies manager had Tom Gordon intentionally walk David Ortiz, who had hit a walk-off home run off Gordon on Saturday. However, after taking the lead and then squandering it in the 12th inning, the Phillies and reliever Clay Condrey didn’t have a choice but to pitch to Ortiz with runners on first and second in a tie game. In the only predictable moment of a wild game, Ortiz delivered a line-drive single to left-center field to give the Red Sox an 8-7 win in a marathon that last[ed] four hours, 59 minutes. It was Ortiz’s third walk-off hit of the season and his second in as many games, and it extended Boston’s season-high winning streak to nine.”
16. 2006-06-24, Red Sox 5, Phillies 3. I ran out of adjectives after this walk-off home run. You get the feeling that David Ortiz is expecting to hit the game-winning homer, and that opposing pitchers are visualizing giving it up. I also decided to write this piece after this game, but by the time I finished it, Ortiz had done it again.
“It has reached the point where David Ortiz’s parting shots into the cheap seats have become almost too overwhelming — and too frequent — for his teammates to know exactly what to say to him when he lands at home plate and finds that sea of white jerseys waiting for him. Now, grown men find themselves in a sheer state of awe, wondering how the same man can come up big so many times with the game on the line. The latest walk-off blast by Ortiz came on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park, when he clocked an ill-fated curveball by Tom Gordon and hammered it to center field for a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the 10th.”
15. 2006-06-11, Red Sox 5, Rangers 4. Summer is getting hot, and so are the Red Sox. With victories like these, you sense that this is going to be a special season. These are the victories that winning teams are made of.
“David Ortiz entered the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Rangers in an unfamiliar spot — hitting .256 and just .167 (4-for-24) with two home runs and three RBIs in June. But, with two outs, two runners on and the Red Sox down by two runs in the ninth inning, Ortiz found himself in a familiar spot — facing an opposing pitcher with the game hanging in the balance. Ortiz turned Akinori Otsuka’s 2-and-2 two-seamer around, depositing it into the right-field bleachers, delivering a 5-4 walk-off victory for the Sox.”
14. 2005-09-29, Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4. I think this was the game where fans displayed signs in the Green Monster seats with ‘PAPI’ on one side, ‘MVP!’ on the other side.
“MVP, MVP, MVP,’ shouted the majority of the 35,345 who hung around for the dramatic end of Thursday’s 5-4 walk-off win over the Blue Jays. Translation: David Ortiz delivered yet again with the game on the line. All he did was crank an equalizing solo homer over the Green Monster in the bottom of the eighth and then win it with an RBI single into left field with one out in the ninth.”
13. 2005-09-14, Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3. The later in the season, the later in the game, the better Big Papi gets. Plus Ortiz demonstrates why he is the season’s MVP, regardless of how the voting turns out.
“‘I’m just trying to break the rules — that a DH can’t win an MVP. I’m trying to break the rules this year,’ Ortiz said with a grin. ‘No, I’m just playing.’ Whether he’s joking or not, Ortiz’s season might be taken very seriously when it’s voting time for the year-end awards. The Boston slugger smashed a fastball from Toronto’s Josh Towers in the eighth inning that landed in the stands in center field and gave the Red Sox a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday at the Rogers Centre.”
12. 2005-09-12, Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5. Six days after getting The Plaque, Big Papi lives up to his new title.
“With the game on the line, David Ortiz once again delivered. The Red Sox slugger opened the scoring with a solo homer in the fourth inning and then ended it with his 40th blast in the 11th…. ‘Its the 11th inning, man. You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game, like I always say,’ Ortiz said. ‘I just wanted to have a good at-bat — put a good swing on the ball and let things happen. If you go up there thinking about home runs, you’re going to swing at those pitches in the dirt.'”
11. 2005-09-06, Red Sox 3, Angels 2. David Ortiz was awarded a plaque by the Red Sox owners after this walk-off home run.
“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.’ … How many more times can Ortiz deliver in such a fashion? Not enough for it to ever get old.”
10. 2005-08-16, Red Sox 10, Tigers 7. Some commentators miss this point: it can only be a walk-off hit at home because the home team bats last. So the two home runs that Ortiz hit in this game were not walk-offs, but they were game-winners.
“Mr. Clutch put the Red Sox on his mammoth shoulders yet again on Tuesday night at Comerica Park, rifling a game-tying, solo homer to right off Fernando Rodney with one out in the ninth. Yes, David Ortiz — who else? — produced that shot, his 30th of the season. And it set the stage for Boston’s 10-7, 10-inning victory over the Tigers. Naturally it was Ortiz (31 homers, 105 RBIs) who put the game out of reach, unloading for another prodigious blast, this one a three-run shot to right in the top of the 10th against Jamie Walker that stretched the lead to five runs for the visiting Red Sox…”
9. 2005-06-02, Red Sox 6, Orioles 4. This is the first time I thought an opposing pitcher looked scared facing Ortiz with the game on the line.
“There they were, down to the last strike of the afternoon and staring at another loss to the American League East-leading Orioles. All David Ortiz needed to do to prevent that agony was turn around a B.J. Ryan fastball. To most left-handed hitters, that would be some improbable pipe dream against such an imposing southpaw closer. But to Ortiz, such heroics have simply become a way of life since he joined the Red Sox in 2003. Add yet another clip to the ever-growing montage of clutch hits from Ortiz. He flicked his powerful wrists on Ryan’s 3-2 fastball and provided the surge of delight the Fenway faithful had been looking for all day long. With one swing of his lethal bat, Ortiz launched a three-run shot over the wall in center field. The walk-off blast turned what would have been a 4-3 loss into a dramatic 6-4 triumph on Thursday afternoon.”
8. 2004-10-18, Red Sox 5, Yankees 4 (ALCS Game 5). In case the previous game wasn’t enough drama for you, this game ended in a similar fashion after 14 innings. At this point, the Sox had won the equivalent of three games (26 innings) against the Yankees, while still trailing the series three games to two. Oh yeah, Ortiz also homered in the eighth inning.
“If this is indeed a last stand for the 2004 Red Sox, they are making it an exhilarating one for themselves and their fans. If it’s something more than that, it will be a launch toward history that New England will never forget. For the second day in a row, the Sox saw their season hanging in the balance and never blinked. Instead, they staged a riveting encore from their epic, 12-inning win in Game 4. It took two innings longer this time, and, again, the Sox found a way. As it turned out, it was a different night, but the same hero. David Ortiz stepped up again, this time lacing a 2-2 pitch into center field for a two-out, RBI single that scored Johnny Damon from second to give Boston a thrilling 5-4 triumph.”
7. 2004-10-17, Red Sox 6, Yankees 4 (ALCS Game 4). This win, with the Sox down three games to zero to the Yankees, started the Red Sox on an eight-game winning streak that culminated in them winning the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
“All the Sox had to do to stave off elimination — not to mention a humbling sweep — in this American League Championship Series against the Yankees was overturn a ninth inning deficit against Mariano Rivera, the most accomplished closer in the world. Then they had to shut the Yankees down for another three innings. David Ortiz finally ended the madness, pummeling a Paul Quantrill pitch into the visitors’ bullpen for a two-run homer in the bottom of the 12th inning.”
6. 2004-10-08, Red Sox 8, Angels 6 (ALDS Game 3). This walk-off home run won the game and the ALDS for the Red Sox.
“Despite being unable to hold a 6-1 lead after six innings, the Sox offset [Vladimir] Guerrero’s [grand slam] with a monumental hit of their own. Ortiz crushed Jarrod Washburn’s first (and only) pitch of the day way over the Green Monster for a walk-off, two-out, two-run homer to give the Sox a thrilling 8-6 victory in 10 innings.”
5. 2004-06-11, Red Sox 2, Dodgers 1. After losing the lead in the top of the 9th, the Sox won the game in the bottom of the 9th.
“Ortiz snapped a scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh, hitting a screaming line drive into the visitor’s bullpen against Odalis Perez…. His single down the right-field line brought Damon home to end the 2-1 victory for the Sox.”
4. 2004-04-11, Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 4. This was also Curt Schilling’s first game at Fenway.
“[T]his 6-4 victory was certainly the most dramatic to date for the 2004 Sox, especially considering that one-third of the starting lineup (Johnny Damon, Garciaparra and Trot Nixon) was unavailable for duty. With Garciaparra still recovering from his Achilles tendon injury, David Ortiz stepped up as this Easter’s walkoff hero. With Bill Mueller on first, Ortiz pummeled a 2-2 pitch from Aquilino Lopez into the Monster seats in left-center with none out in the bottom of the 12th, sending the Fenway crowd of 34,286 home happy. He was mobbed at home plate by his ecstatic teammates.’
3. 2003-09-23, Red Sox 6, Orioles 5. This was Ortiz’s first walk-off home run for the Red Sox, and it reduced Boston’s magic number to three to clinch a playoff spot. It would also be the last time you’d see him wearing a helmet at home plate. He would later resort to removing the helmet to minimize the celebratory pounding he receives from his teammates.
“In the bottom of the 10th, David Ortiz sent everyone home, pummeling a 2-1 pitch from Kurt Ainsworth for a walk-off solo shot over the Green Monster to lead off the inning. Naturally, the Red Sox stormed out of the dugout and all but pounded Ortiz to pieces at home plate…. And in a season [in which] Ortiz (29 homers, 98 RBIs) has had too many clutch hits to count, this was his biggest. ‘It was pretty exciting,’ Ortiz said. ‘We needed that to win the game. To come through like that was a great feeling.'”
2. 2003-07-26, Red Sox 5, Yankees 4. This win ended a two-game losing streak and started a three-game winning streak. From Ortiz’s comments after the game, we can see that he is beginning to feel comfortable doing what he does best: hit the ball, free from the constraints of Minnesota Twins small-ball.
“David Ortiz … hammer[ed] a walkoff single off the wall in left field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, snapping a 4-4 tie and bringing this one in to the win column…. After falling behind in the count, 1-2, the recently slumping Ortiz hammered a low and outside fastball from Benitez to finish it off. ‘Benitez, he’s got a good fastball,’ Ortiz said. ‘I guess I was just looking for the fastball. When I was walking out of the dugout, [manager] Grady [Little] told me, ‘Go get the Green Monster.’ I was like, ‘All right.””
1. 2002-09-25, Twins 7, Indians 5. This was David Ortiz’s first walk-off hit, and it was his last home run as a member of the Minnesota Twins. The Twins releases Ortiz at the end of the 2002 season, and the rest is history (in the making). Note the Red Sox connections in this game.
“[A] David Ortiz two-run homer in the bottom of the 12th inning … led the Twins to a 7-5 victory over the Indians in front of 15,314 at the Metrodome. The Twins entered their final at-bats trailing by a run after Eddie Guardado was tagged for an Ellis Burks solo home run in the top of the ninth inning. But Doug Mientkiewicz led off the bottom of the 10th frame with a single and alertly took second when Cleveland center fielder Coco Crisp fumbled the ball. Mientkiewicz’s aggressiveness paid off as Michael Cuddyer tied the game with an RBI single to center before Ortiz drilled the game-winner.”