By Ryan Hannable
BOSTON — Certainly Game 2 of the ALCS is a lot different than the ninth game of the regular season, but just like he did six months ago in October, David Ortiz hit a clutch home run in the eighth inning when his team desperately needed a lift.
There’s no denying the Red Sox were in a funk to open the year, dropping five of their first eight games and looking all kinds of out of sorts at the plate, failing to get a clutch hit with runners in scoring position and hitting into double plays at inopportune times.
The Red Sox had just allowed a run in the seventh and a run in the eighth to spoil a terrific outing from Jake Peavy and trailed 2-1. With two runners on and one out, the Rangers went to their bullpen for left-hander Neal Cotts, who had owned Ortiz in the past, as in five at bats Ortiz had struck out five times. That didn’t matter as Ortiz crushed an inside fastball into the twilight sky and over Pesky’s Pole in right field to give the Red Sox a much-needed, 4-2 win.
“Huge hit. Hopefully this gives us a little bit of momentum finishing out a series win here and with a long road trip hopefully this is a jump start for us,” manager John Farrell said. “So many times has he bailed us out and no different today, particularly against a match up that was way in favor of [Neal] Cotts, you know five at bats previous, five strikeouts and this time David got him.”
Granted it’s only April 9 and only 5.5 percent into the season, but the Red Sox badly needed the win. The Red Sox had won just one of their first five home games, including being swept by the Brewers last weekend and if they would’ve lost Wednesday they would have lost their second consecutive series.
As a team, they’ve put up some pretty rough numbers offensively. They’ve grounded into 17 double plays as a team through the first nine games, which well and beyond leads the majors as going into Wednesday, Colorado was second with 13. They’ve also struggled to hit with runners in scoring position as currently they are hitting just .215 (7-for-79). as a team. It’s been frustrating for the team as they’ve recorded double-digit hit totals in four games to open the year, but don’t have the run or win totals to show for it.
Often times in baseball one swing can change everything as demonstrated last October when Ortiz’s home run in Game 2 of the ALCS carried them from what looked like going down 0-2 back to Detroit to face Justin Verlander in Game 3, to a Game 2 win and all the momentum they needed to reach the World Series and ultimately win the World Series. Ortiz’s game-winner Thursday could be that same type of hit to get the team on a hot streak like they were on for so much of last season.
“I’m the kind of hitter that I’ve always believed, one at bat, good or bad can get momentum going, especially when things aren’t going that well,” Ortiz said. “It’s early in the season, nine games. We just have to keep playing good so we can get into the playoffs this year.”
Unlike many other superstars to play the game Ortiz has the ability to change the overall mood of a team with just one swing of the bat and is on completely different level than anyone else playing the game when it comes to getting hits in the clutch.
Jonny Gomes decribed it perfectly: “We’re just here to win a ballgame and he’s here to add his to his Hall of Fame resume.”
How badly did the Red Sox need David Ortiz’s heroics? Leave your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @Hannable84.