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Ortiz gets job done in 8th-inning at-bat

Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz shared a standing ovation between the eighth and ninth innings last night at Fenway Park. The sellout crowd applauded Martinez for what he was about to do: pitch a complete game. They saluted Ortiz for what he had just done: single to right to deliver a crucial run in the Red Sox' 3-2 victory over the Devil Rays. Following the game, Martinez and Ortiz shared a not-so-secret handshake and a hug.

While Martinez was the expected hero, Ortiz was the one who upset the late-game strategy of Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella. With the game tied, 1-1, and Nomar Garciaparra on third, the Devil Rays intentionally walked Manny Ramirez to reach Ortiz. Big mistake. Piniella should have known that Ortiz was 5 for 9 with 9 RBIs when opponents intentionally walk Ramirez. Make that 6 for 10 with 10 RBIs.

"Every time they walk Manny, it kind of pumps me up," said Ortiz. "It puts me in a situation that I have to do something for the team. They know I'm not a fast guy, so I could hit a ground ball for a double play. I told myself I have to be patient. The other day I faced the same situation and I went chasing tough pitches. I wanted to get a little bit of a read on this guy [lefthanded reliever Joe] Kennedy.

"It pumped me up, but at the same time I've got to behave myself a little bit. That way I won't go to the plate swinging at bad pitches in a situation like that. That was what I was trying to do tonight and it worked out for the best."

Ortiz was disciplined once he stepped to the plate. The first three pitches were all away and Ortiz quickly went ahead in the count, 3-and-0. After the game, there seemed to be some confusion as to what Ortiz was supposed to do at that point. Grady Little momentarily forgot that the count had reached 3-and-0, then said Ortiz was instructed to take the next pitch. Ortiz saw the situation a little differently. He said he didn't want to swing at a bad pitch and make the situation worse with Bill Mueller up next.

"Sometimes people think that the pitcher, just because they're 3-and-0, they come right at you," said Ortiz. "It's not like that. Actually, that pitch ran into me and I might have hit a ground ball for a double play."

When asked if he had the green light, Ortiz said, "Yeah, I guess so. I don't look at the third base coach. I make my own ideas sometimes. They're not the one swinging. I'm the one swinging at the plate."

In any event, Ortiz took the fourth pitch for strike one. He knew that being greedy could cause trouble. Then at 3-and-1, he swung at a ball low and away for strike two. Next, he fouled off a pitch. Finally, on the seventh pitch, Ortiz hit the ball through the hole at second. Garciaparra scored and the Red Sox went ahead, 2-1. It was Ortiz's team-leading 22d go-ahead RBI of the season.

"I tell you, this is the guy we want up there in a situation just like that," said Little. "Regardless of who is on the mound, he has been steady for us in those situations all year and we are glad he was there again tonight."

There were 33,618 fans at Fenway, as well as one grateful winning pitcher, who undoubtedly shared that same sentiment.

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