Saving his best for last
Once again, Ortiz a hero in the ninth
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein acknowledged he took the standings into consideration when he decided against using the organization’s best prospects to make a significant deal before yesterday’s trade deadline.
The Red Sox are currently buried behind the Yankees and Rays in the American League East with two months remaining, and closer to fourth place than second.
But Epstein stressed he would pursue trades via waivers this month if upgrades were merited.
“We have a team that has the ability to get really hot as we get healthy and play our way right back to where we want to go,’’ he said.
That journey may have started last night. David Ortiz slammed a three-run double to the left-center gap in the ninth inning as the Red Sox came back to stun the Detroit Tigers, 5-4, before a crowd of 37,498 at Fenway Park.
Trailing 4-0 after six innings, the Red Sox scored two runs in the seventh before Ortiz delivered their sixth victory in nine games. As Kevin Youkilis scored the winning run, Ortiz stood on second base joyously bellowing while pumping both fists at the crowd, seeming to exhort them to stick with this team.
Within seconds, he was swarmed by teammates
“Game over,’’ Ortiz said. “I don’t like to play extra innings anyway.’’
It was the end of what until that point had been a trying day for the Red Sox, who watched the trade deadline pass without any immediate improvements delivered, then quickly fell behind the Tigers.
“Long day,’’ manager Terry Francona said, “but it ended up being a good one.’’
The ninth-inning rally started against Detroit reliever Ryan Perry as Darnell McDonald reached on an infield single, sliding headfirst into the bag. Facing lefthander Phil Coke, pinch hitter Jed Lowrie doubled off the wall in center.
McDonald stopped at third. The Tigers intentionally walked Youkilis to get to Ortiz, who was 0 for 8 with three strikeouts in his career against Coke.
“That guy has been in my brain,’’ Ortiz said. “I was trying to come up with something.’’
With the Detroit infield shifted far to the right, Ortiz squared to bunt at Coke’s first pitch and pulled back when the slider was outside.
“I would have bunted it if it was something I could have bunted,’’ he said.
Coke missed again with a slider then threw two straight 96-mile-per-hour fastballs. Ortiz fouled off the first then lined the second the other way. The ball split the outfielders and rolled to the wall.
“I thought I could score. Once I saw it in the gap, I knew I had a pretty good chance of scoring,’’ said Youkilis, who slid in well ahead of the relay throw. “I knew I was going to score.’’
Ortiz had struck out in the sixth inning with two on and ended the seventh by striking out with the bases loaded.
“Man, I was having a crazy day today,’’ Ortiz said. “I faced a few situations and I didn’t come through. Coming through at that time kind of cleans up your head.’’
Ortiz has hit safely in nine straight games, driving in 12 runs. He has 71 RBIs on the season. He had a grand slam in the ninth inning of Friday’s 6-5 loss.
“David is picking this team up,’’ shortstop Marco Scutaro said. “He has been huge.’’
Tigers starter Max Scherzer faced the Sox at
Scherzer has a 2.62 ERA in 12 starts since he returned to the Tigers May 30. He left yesterday’s game in the seventh inning, turning a 4-0 lead over to the bullpen with a runner on third and one out.
Ryan Kalish, 2 for 4 in his major league debut, knocked an RBI single into right field off Brad Thomas. McDonald followed with an RBI double off Perry.
Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka had a rocky six innings, giving up four runs on eight hits and two walks.
Miguel Cabrera had a two-run homer in the first inning. No 9 hitter Ramon Santiago added an RBI single in the second and an RBI double in the fourth.
Dustin Richardson, Scott Atchison, and Hideki Okajima (4-3) held the Tigers scoreless over the final three innings to give their teammates a chance.
The Sox ended a difficult July at 12-13, making the road ahead daunting.
“You’ve got to win pretty much every series from here on out unless you get help from other teams losing,’’ Youkilis said. “But you can’t rely on other teams. You’ve got to take it in your own hands.’’
Ortiz left the clubhouse wearing wraparound sunglasses as darkness fell.
“We’re still here,’’ he said. “We’re still here.’’