BOSTON — David Ortiz has delivered some thunderous blasts over the course of his career, but it’s what the slugger brings to the table even before he steps into the batter’s box that amazes his peers.
Ortiz helped change the complexion of the Red Sox’ ALCS matchup with the Tigers by hitting a game-tying grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning of Game 2. Boston went on to win the contest 6-5 on a walk-off single from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and the series now shifts to Detroit tied at a game apiece. Before Ortiz’s crowd-pleasing, momentum-shifting, hair-raising, noise-inducing slam, however, came much-needed tranquility.
“He stays calm,” manager John Farrell said of Ortiz. “We talk a lot about whether it’s David or other guys, guys that can perform in meaningful moments. They’ve got the ability to keep the emotions under control. It’s clear‑cut what he’s looking for. And whether it was Manny Ramirez for a number of years — and he and David pairing up for success — there’s a lot of similarities to those two players, that in those key moments, they keep their heart rate under control.”
It’s often difficult for players to keep their emotions in check, especially when the stakes are raised in October. Ortiz does it as well as anyone who has ever worn a Red Sox uniform, though, and it has long had a trickle-down effect on those who have shared a clubhouse with the nine-time All-Star.
“It’s incredible. There’s no sense of — on the bench there’s nobody really surprised when he does something like he does. But it’s unbelievable,” Saltalamacchia said following Boston’s Game 2 comeback. “You watch it on TV for so many years, and growing up watching it and then being able to be on the bench and watch that ball go out and seeing him run the bases, it’s like any other day. He gets excited, but you can’t really tell he’s any different — if he’s rushed or if he’s calm. He’s the same every day.”
Ortiz is the Red Sox’ career leader in playoff runs (44), hits (67), doubles (16), homers (15), RBIs (50), total bases (133) and walks (47). Most importantly, he has a tendency to come through when it matters most — as we saw once again Sunday — and his production typically sends Boston in the right direction.
“I tell you what, postseason is something that it can work both ways for you,” Ortiz said following Sunday’s win. “It can go well if you stay calm, or it can go bad if you try to overdo things.
“Like [Game 1], pretty much we were trying to overdo things. I was trying to produce for the team when the opposition was pitching me very careful. I was chasing a lot of bad pitches. I feel like I was jumping a little bit. In my first couple of at‑bats, I felt like I was doing some funny things. We’ve had four days off, and sometimes it can go against you, when you’re not facing pitching. And it happens. It happens to all of us, so we pretty much needed the momentum going on. And I think winning this game is going to tell a lot.”
When Ortiz launched a walk-off home run into the right field bullpen in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, Red Sox radio voice Jerry Trupiano said, “Jump on his back fellas!” Nine years later, Ortiz’s teammates are still catching a ride.