David Ortiz watched baseball’s postseason on television the last three seasons with a feeling of regret because the Red Sox weren’t playing. But at the same time, there were happy memories of home runs hit and championships won.
“The playoffs seem longer when you’re not in them,” Ortiz said last week. “It’s tough.”
Now the Red Sox are back and Big Papi feels only joy. Ortiz belted two home runs Saturday as the Red Sox took command of the Division Series against the Rays with a 7-4 victory before a sellout crowd of 38,705 at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox have taken two straight against the Rays and can win the best-of-five series Monday at Tropicana Field. They will pitch Clay Buchholz against Alex Cobb.
The Red Sox have not been to the American League Championship Series since 2008.
For Ortiz, who had solo shots in the first and eighth innings, it was his first career postseason game with multiple home runs.
Dustin Pedroia drove in three runs while Jacoby Ellsbury was 3 for 4 with two runs scored, an RBI, and a stolen base.
Rays starter David Price was 10-6 with a 2.93 earned run average in 20 career starts in the regular season against the Red Sox, 6-1, 1.88 at Fenway Park.
Never had Price given up more than five runs in a game against the Sox. But he allowed seven runs on nine hits, six of them for extra bases.
John Lackey had some rocky moments but pitched into the sixth inning to get the win. Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara combined on 3⅔ innings of scoreless relief.
Uehara retired the overmatched Rays in order in the ninth for the save.
The Sox have scored 19 runs on 25 hits — eight for extra bases — in the first two games of the series.
The Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a mixture of small ball and power.
Ellsbury singled, stole second, and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Jose Molina. He scored from there on a sacrifice fly by Pedroia. Ortiz was next and he pounded a cut fastball into the Red Sox bullpen for his 13th postseason home run, the first since 2008.
David Ross started the third inning with a double off the wall in left. The backup catcher was 2 for 5 in his career against Price with two home runs. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia 1 for 14 against Price, Ross got a chance and delivered.
Ellsbury drove in Ross with a softly hit ball that parachuted over third base and rolled away for a double.
More sloppy play cost the Rays in the fourth inning. Mike Napoli walked and was erased when Jonny Gomes grounded into a force. But when Ben Zobrist tried to complete a double play, his throw sailed high and Gomes ended up on second.
Stephen Drew drove in Gomes with a triple off the wall that was misplayed by left fielder David DeJesus. Drew had been 0 for 11 against Price in his career.
Outside of a tuneup inning in Wednesday’s intrasquad game, Lackey was pitching for the first time since Sept. 24 in Colorado. He allowed four runs on seven hits over 5⅓ innings. Lackey walked three, hit one, and struck out six.
The outing was his shortest since May 14, when he took a loss against the Rays on the road.
Lackey took a 5-1 lead into the fifth inning. Yunel Escobar reached on a bad-hop double down the line in left. With one out, Lackey hit DeJesus with a pitch.
With two outs, James Loney lined a misplaced cutter off the wall in center field and two runs scored. Loney never hit a ball that hard during his brief time with the Red Sox last season.
Lackey walked Evan Longoria, bringing Zobrist to the plate as the tying run. Zobrist had homered off Jon Lester Friday.
Lackey’s full-count fastball caught the inside corner of the plate and Zobrist was called out on strikes by umpire Eric Cooper. Lackey walked off the mound pumping his fist.
The Rays were back in the game. But Price gave a run back as Ellsbury singled and scored on Pedroia’s double into the corner in left field.
The Sox were hoping Lackey could finish six innings before they went to a well-rested bullpen. But the Rays chipped away again. Desmond Jennings singled, took second on a groundout, and scored on a single by Escobar.
Lackey was done after 95 pitches, replaced by Breslow. Matt Joyce pinch hit and flew to center. Sean Rodriguez then pinch hit and grounded to shortstop.
Breslow stayed in for the seventh inning and trouble followed as he hit Loney and walked Longoria. But the Red Sox infield defense saved him with a nice double play.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.