BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Red Sox were just two outs away from their sixth straight loss on Sunday night when they received a big boost from Big Papi.
With Boston down 3-2 to the Detroit Tigers with one out and two on in the top of the ninth, David Ortiz stepped into the batter’s box after a frustrating night. Ortiz was 0-for-4 at that point, and two innings prior he flew out to center with two on in a 2-2 ball game to end a potential Red Sox rally.
Detroit reliever Phil Coke got Ortiz to fly out in the seventh, making the Sox lefty 2-for-19 in his career against the reliever. In the ninth though, Ortiz faced a familiar foe in Joba Chamberlain, who he saw many times out of the New York Yankees’ bullpen from 2007-2013.
Now Detroit’s fill-in closer, Ortiz had a good idea what Chamberlain would be throwing him as he stepped to the plate. He watched Dustin Pedroia battle off slider after slider in a tough 15-pitch at-bat, drawing a walk, so Ortiz was ready when Chamberlain left a slider over the middle of the plate on the third pitch of his at-bat.
Ortiz took the pitch and deposited it deep into Comercia Park’s right field bleachers for a three-run homer, putting Boston on top 5-3.
“I faced Joba all the time and he has good stuff. But I saw him trying too many sliders tonight, and that’s his weapon. He left one in the strike zone and I hit it well,” Ortiz said after the game.
It was the 16th go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later of Ortiz’s career. Boston starter John Lackey, who got the win thanks to Ortiz’s blast, had a feeling he was about to see something special when Ortiz stepped to the plate with the game on the line.
“We have a sense of that pretty much any time he hits. He’s special,” said Lackey, who pitched eight strong innings and earned his team-leading seventh win. “He’s a guy that loves those situations. He’s done it so many times, it’s funny, you almost expect it. He’s the real deal in those spots.”
The homer was Ortiz’s only hit of the night, and while he has six hits in the last six games, the slugger has been frustrated at the plate. Ortiz thought he had a hit in the fifth inning when he lined one to third base, which is usually left vacant when opponents use the shift against Ortiz. But Nick Castellanos didn’t have to move a step to snag Ortiz’s liner, and Brock Holt was left stranded on second.
“That’s been my whole life this year — just hitting balls hard right at people,” Ortiz said. “When I saw the third baseman right there, I was like, ‘What are you doing there?’
“You have to fight,” he said. “In my case I think I broke my record of hitting hard balls at people.”
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for Boston, who had bounced back from a 10-game losing streak to snap off seven-straight wins. They now head into Baltimore for three games against the Orioles, a chance to make up some ground in the AL East.
“We needed a win, no doubt about it,” manager John Farrell said Sunday night. “We had so many opportunities throughout the course of the game, but Ortiz came and gave us that lift with the homer in the ninth.”
Ortiz’s blast could be the spart this team needs to get back on track. It seems like whenever they get some momentum going, they take another two steps back.
Lackey says the comeback win could help, but it’s important not to place too much emphasis on just one game.
“You guys make too much of each game. It’s a win,” he said. “We just have to keep playing good baseball. You can’t put too much on a win or on a loss. You have to keep going about the daily grind and keep giving our team a chance to win in the end.”
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