Ortiz steals show as Sox produce a win
David Ortiz greets Mike Myers with a three-run homer in the eighth. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)
Mike Myers had faced David Ortiz just twice (0 for 2) before their eighth-inning encounter last night, when the Red Sox' impregnable DH came to bat with his team ahead of the Yankees by one run and two runners aboard.
''I faced him when he was a good hitter, not a great hitter," Myers said in advance of the at-bat.
When Ortiz dug in on this cold (46 degrees) and windy (16 miles per hour, blowing in) evening, the Sox and Yankees had combined for seven runs on 13 hits, all of them singles. The count went to 3-and-2, and as Yankees manager Joe Torre pointed out, ''In a situation like that, you don't want to load the bases. So there's a slight advantage to the hitter.
''When he hit it," Torre added, ''I felt pretty cocky that anything hit into the wind tonight would come back into the park."
But of all of the mystic elements at play, none were greater than Ortiz's bat. With a thunderous swing, he launched the ball into the Boston night, not to come down until it landed in the glove of Jonathan Papelbon, who was warming up in the bullpen.
Papelbon hurled it halfway up the bleachers, a proper exclamation point to a 7-3 Sox win before 36,339 in the first of 19 regular-season meetings between these teams.
It was an exhausting day and game, emotionally more than physically. At 3:30 p.m., a lineup was posted with Doug Mirabelli, acquired yesterday from the Padres, catching. By 3:45, Jason Varitek's name was in the lineup instead. Mirabelli's charter landed at Logan at 6:48, and his police escort arrived at the ballpark at 7, giving Mirabelli 12 minutes to collect his thoughts and get into uniform.
At 7:01, a lineup change was announced. Mirabelli would start and bat eighth. Varitek, meanwhile, had been warming up Tim Wakefield in the bullpen.
''That's as uncomfortable as I've been, the most anxiety I've had going into a game since I've been here," said Sox manager Terry Francona.
General manager Theo Epstein had said the first pitch would be at 7:09 p.m. Somehow, it wasn't tossed until 7:13, and that wasn't because the game was on ESPN. (A high-ranking ESPN employee was wondering himself why the game didn't begin on time.)
At about 7:12, Mirabelli was behind the plate, catching Wakefield offerings. Two skipped away in warmups.
''I was like, 'Here we go,' " Mirabelli said. ''I don't think I've ever been that nervous in my career. Ever."
And then Johnny Damon walked by.
''That kind of snuck up on me," Mirabelli said. ''I hadn't really thought about the Johnny situation until he walked by. He said, 'Welcome back.' "
As the game wore on, it became evident that fly balls stood next to no chance. On a normal day, Jason Giambi's first-inning blast to center and Derek Jeter's sixth-inning shot to left center would not have been caught.
''Giambi, Jeter, on a normal night, yes," Wakefield said. ''David Ortiz's home run, that ball was absolutely mashed. That shows how strong that guy really is."
Mirabelli and Wily Mo Peña, too, were robbed of balls that would have touched, or cleared, some wall. But until the Ortiz homer, this game would be played between the lines and within the fences. Runs would be scored on singles and ground outs.
The Sox, who had supported Wakefield with all of 10 runs in his five starts to date, gave him an immediate run in the first for a 1-0 lead. Kevin Youkilis led off with a walk, moved to second on Mark Loretta's ground out, and scored on an Ortiz lined single to left.
New York answered with three in the fourth, sending seven men to the plate. Jeter singled to center leading off, and Giambi and Alex Rodriguez walked, on a total of nine pitches, loading the bases with no outs. Hideki Matsui didn't get the ball out of the infield but plated the tying run on a ground out to Youkilis.
Jorge Posada then grounded to second but too hard to score Giambi, who had to hold at third. But Robinson Cano delivered with a grounded single that slipped between Loretta and shortstop Alex Cora into center field, scoring two with two outs for a 3-1 Yankees lead.
The Sox, though, would do something they haven't done much of: they'd rally behind Wakefield. Cora (bunt single), Youkilis (single to right), and Ortiz (single to left) loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Manny Ramírez, on the first pitch, fisted a ball just over first baseman Miguel Cairo, plating Youkilis and pulling Boston within 3-2. Trot Nixon then grounded to first, scoring Loretta to even matters at 3-3.
Loretta went on to knock in the go-ahead run in the eighth, making it 4-3.
Wakefield would work seven innings and allow only four hits. His record, though, would remain at 1-4 through six starts.
Mike Timlin (the winner, at 3-0) worked the eighth, and Papelbon finished it with a 1-2-3 ninth that extended his scoreless-innings streak to 21 1/3, dating to last September.
He blew away Alex Rodriguez on three pitches, the last around the letters at 94 miles per hour.
''I knew in the bullpen I was coming in to face him," Papelbon said. ''I wanted to set the tone."
He popped up Matsui on six pitches. And he fanned Posada on four pitches, the last at 97 m.p.h.
''I guess," he said, smiling, ''I got a few miles per hour of wind behind me."