John W. Henry thought he'd said everything he wanted to say about David Ortiz once before, under similarly inspiring circumstances. But on second thought . . .
``So," Henry said on a Fenway Park elevator that could not muffle the chants of ``MVP! MVP!" cascading through every nook and cranny of this ancient fossil that in nearly a century has never seen anyone close a show with the flourish Ortiz does, time and again, ``I'm thinking of what to say on the next plaque."
The first plaque, the one presented to Ortiz last September by the Sox owners in a collective spasm of joy, pronounced Ortiz ``The Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox."
What can possibly be added to that after Ortiz delivered another you-can't-be-serious, he-did-it-again??!!! walkoff home run, a three-run laser into the center-field seats that lifted the Sox to a 9-8 win over the dazed Cleveland Indians and rewrote more pages in the annals of wondrous feats by Sox sluggers.
The words of Coco Crisp, a relative newcomer to these universe-shaking big bangs by Big Papi, may not be fit for bronze, but they likely will bring a smile to those in the crowd of 36,387 whose dismay at an impending Sox defeat was transformed to delirium by Ortiz.
``You know how they say that it ain't over till the fat lady sings?" Crisp said. ``Here, it ain't over till the big man swings."
Ortiz's game-winner was his second home run of the night, his major league-leading 37th of the season, and his 14th in the month, the most ever by a Sox player in July. He equaled Jackie Jensen's record for most homers by a Sox player in any month (Jensen did it in June 1958). His four RBIs give him 105 for the season, the most any Sox player has had on the eve of August. Ted Williams and Vern Stephens each had 104 RBIs by July 31 in 1950.
The night-transforming home run also came as something of a baptism for a 22-year-old Indians rookie from the Dominican Republic named Fausto Carmona, who had been the closer for all of 11 days and was facing his first save situation. Carmona's first mistake was to give up a single to Alex Cora to lead off the bottom of the ninth with the Sox trailing by two, 8-6.
His second mistake was to walk Kevin Youkilis, putting the tying runs on base. Carmona may have thought he bought himself some time when he induced the next hitter, Mark Loretta, to pop out. Instead, he bought himself a ticket to another Big Papi moment, one that began with Carmona missing the strike zone with his first two offerings, before Ortiz swung and didn't miss.
``I want him to teach me how to do that," said Wily Mo Peña, who did some heavy hitting of his own in his first start in right field since Trot Nixon went on the disabled list with a strained tendon in his right biceps. Peña banged a two-run triple to the triangle in the second, a home run that shattered the headlight of a car in the last row of a Lansdowne Street parking garage, and a line single in the sixth.
How much does a magician charge to reveal the source of his sorcery?
``No, that's for free," Ortiz said. ``Everything he wants to learn is free."
The walkoff home run was his third this season, seventh in the regular season for the Red Sox, and eighth regular-season walkoff of his career. He has 15 walkoff hits in all, a dozen as a member of the Red Sox, five in the last 51 days starting June 11.
``I've been playing for a long time," Cora said, ``and I've never seen anything like it. Guys on the bench are saying, `No way, no way he can do it again,' and boom, it's there."
The last thing Theo Epstein needed, after the trading deadline passed without the Sox making a deal of real consequence, was to go home with that defeated feeling magnified by a loss on the field.
Instead, Epstein was reminded of another author of last-second miracles, Larry Legend.
``Bird hitting all those buzzer-beaters," Epstein said. ``And when he missed one, people would say, `What?' "
The night had begun with a round of ``Jeopardy."
Answer: Fat chance.
Question: Would David Wells provide instant comfort to Red Sox fans bemoaning the team's inability to land a big-time starter, try as they did to get a Roy Oswalt or a Mark Buehrle or a Roger Clemens?
The 43-year-old Wells, widely applauded for his determination to drag his ample girth to the mound one more time on a right knee held together by baling wire, clothespins, and paper clips, was no match for the elephant guns aimed his way by the Indians.
Wells, making just his third start of a summer short-circuited by surgery and a line drive that scored a direct hit on his knee almost two months ago, did not get past the fifth inning. The Indians scored eight runs on eight hits, including six extra-base hits (two home runs by Casey Blake), before Wells plodded off the mound with two out in the fifth to a sympathetic ovation.
Seldom have the Indians had so much fun at Wells's expense; he came into the game with a 20-4 record against the Tribe and had not lost to the Clevelanders in more than five years. But that was a different pitcher from the one whose workload for 2006 now reads: 0-2, 11.08 ERA, 13 IP, 16 ER.
With the Sox trailing, 8-6, despite home runs by Ortiz, Peña, and Manny Ramírez (No. 29), Francona turned to Kyle Snyder, who was supposed to start tonight's game but instead delivered 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. It was the longest relief outing of his career for Snyder, who was greeted outside the clubhouse with tears of joy from his mother, Sandy, and sister, Kate, who flew up from Florida for the game.
Sweetest moment of his career? Snyder, who has endured four arm surgeries, could not hide the redness of his own eyes. ``I'd have to say yes," he said.
Just another gift from Big Papi.