Wakefield and Ortiz are up to their old tricks
David Ortiz’s trot was slow and steady, until he joined the mosh pit. Then he was submerged under his teammates, finally ripping himself from the crowd with Victor Martinez still clutching a piece of his jersey. Not that Ortiz appeared upset at all. His grin lasted far beyond the moment of contact, when he won last night’s game for the Red Sox. It was his moment, the way it used to be.
“Right before he went to the on-deck circle, I was telling him, ‘Come on, let’s go. Let’s do this,’ ’’ Martinez said. “He turns back, gives me a look like you can see in his eyes. He was focused. He was going to be focused in that at-bat. The really good thing was he got a good pitch, and he didn’t miss it.’’
No, he didn’t miss it, blasting the pitch into the seats in the right-field corner. That gave Ortiz a pair of homers - one taken the other way over the Green Monster, one pulled beyond the Pesky Pole - the latter sending the Sox to a 3-2 win over the White Sox. With 37,839 making their own mosh pit out of the Fenway stands, the Sox were left to celebrate a game that nearly slipped through their hands.
“Victor, man, he just push me, man,’’ Ortiz said. “Every at-bat since he’s been here, he just get in my face and start screaming at me and everything. I like it, I really like it. He gets me in the mood.’’
This is the type of game the Sox won earlier in the year, the type they lost after the All-Star break, the type that will be crucial for them to take going forward. These are the must-wins, when a starting pitcher takes a lead through the seventh (albeit a small one), when the offense gives just enough.
With this win, too, the Sox picked up a game on the Rangers, bringing their wild-card lead to 2 1/2 games.
“We are fighting for the wild card, and I always keep on telling you guys, we need to try to win as many games as you can,’’ said Ortiz, whose game-ending homer was his ninth (regular season), the most in club history.
“It felt good, man. Especially a guy like me. I don’t like playing extra innings.’’
He didn’t have to, thanks to his swing, though he did have to suffer his teammates “beating the crap out of you,’’ as he put it.
But this win should have gone to Wakefield. The knuckleballer came off the disabled list yesterday, with a new catcher behind the plate, and gave the Sox “more than you could possibly expect,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “That was unbelievable.’’
But no sooner had Wakefield left the game after the seventh inning when things began to fall apart. He had given up just six hits and left his teammates with a 2-1 lead.
But Scott Podsednik, hitting for Jayson Nix, blasted a Ramon Ramirez pitch over the wall in right-center, tying the game and erasing a win from Wakefield’s ledger. Ramirez then walked Gordon Beckham, putting the tiebreaking run on base, and prompting a disgruntled reaction from the crowd.
Daniel Bard, though, cooled the White Sox by getting Jim Thome to make the final out of the eighth inning. On the pitch, which left Thome swinging, Bard hit 101 on the Fenway gun.
“Who’s that guy?’’ White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen asked. “He pitched pretty good. I’d rather face [Jonathan] Papelbon than that guy.’’
By the end of the seventh, Guillen (and the White Sox) would probably have rather faced just about anyone else than Wakefield, too. The knuckleballer was at his efficient best, throwing 17 straight strikes to begin the game. He threw 94 pitches, blowing away both the opposing batters and his teammates.
“Truthfully, how quickly Wake pitches is one of the most unbelievable things to play behind,’’ Jason Bay said. “That’s not taking anything away from the other guys we’ve got, just he operates on a different level. He’s almost kind of Mark Buehrle-esque. He gets it and he goes. You forgot how quickly he worked, because he’d been gone for a while.
“That tempo . . . such a great atmosphere.’’
It looked slightly dicey when Beckham offered a swinging bunt with one out in the first, on which Wakefield pulled up quickly and let third baseman Kevin Youkilis field the ball, though the pitcher didn’t appear particularly hampered by the issues he’s had with his calf. The Sox had installed some extra protection against Wakefield’s potential fielding difficulties, like having Dustin Pedroia rotate to first base to get the relay from Casey Kotchman on a ground ball in the first inning.
But, overall, there were hardly any problems. Wakefield was back to the form he’d demonstrated throughout his All-Star first half.
Wakefield’s mastery of the White Sox was the dominant theme, but there was some oddness in the bottom of the sixth. With the score tied at 1-1, it was Alex Gonzalez who broke the tie with a home run to the first row of the Monster seats. And then, four batters later, it was Ortiz attempting a bunt with runners on first and third and two outs. He popped it foul, and proceeded to strike out swinging. But he had already gotten his homer, and would get his second later to win the game, his seventh in his last 11 games.
“Right now the way things have gone for him, team-wise too, but I don’t think there’s a guy in here that would pick a different guy that could do it,’’ Bay said. “At this point in the season, everything he’s been through, you make of it what you will, but I keep saying that he’s a huge part of our offense.
“I think it gets overlooked. You look at other guys, they’re having better years. But we’ve still got 30-something games left to play in the middle of a playoff race. If he started swinging like he can, that’s huge for us.’’