It’s raining, the New York Yankees have already won, the Tampa Bay Rays are winning and you’re facing a pitcher who does nothing but put up zeroes in Fenway Park. A good time for David Ortiz to make something happen with his legs.
Yes, his legs.
Ortiz has turned around several games or given the Red Sox a spark countless times with his bat. Rarely does he ignite rallies by showing off his “speed,” but that was the case Sunday at a gloomy Fenway Park, where Boston defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0.
Not one Red Sox hitter had reached base against Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum before Ortiz led off the fifth with a drive that landed in the gap in left-center field. As the big man approached second base the ball bounced away from center fielder Vernon Wells. In a moment, the 37,506 on hand realized what might occur as Ortiz turned on the jets and headed for third, a 230-pound slugger vying to complete the most exciting play in baseball.
The throw to third was too late. Ortiz had his first triple in 16 months, the 15th of his 14-year career and Fenway had come alive. Something about sluggers stretching doubles into triples that just gets people in a tizzy.
"We didn’t do anything up to that point," manager Terry Francona said. "David got us going, got some excitement going, got some energy. Picking up those legs, moving them pretty good."
One pitch later Adrian Beltre lined a double into the corner in left and the Red Sox had the only run they would ever need. A two-run homer by Bill Hall added to the fifth-inning rally, which turned a pitchers’ duel into a game for the taking.
"It was huge," Hall said of Ortiz’s hit. "We always get excited when David gets triples because obviously they don’t happen too much."
Indeed, it’s a rarity. Ortiz had not tripled since April 20, 2009, at home against Baltimore. Ten of his 15 career three-base hits have come in the quirky confines of Fenway Park, which can allow for some funny bounces to go his way.
However, in addition to giving his team a much-needed spark against Marcum, Ortiz did achieve one minor milestone that might surprise guys like Hall and many others who witness the latest 270-foot dash — Ortiz is one of just three American League batters (Johnny Damon and Carlos Guillen are the other two) to record at least one triple in 11 straight seasons.
He does not hit them often, but at least he’s consistent.
"I got speed," Ortiz quipped in the Red Sox clubhouse before yelling into Francona’s office that he was prepared to bat leadoff Monday night.
All joking aside, the dash from second to third was a wise gamble, even for a guy not known for being fleet of foot. With Marcum and Clay Buchholz battling in a scoreless affair, there is incredible value in getting a runner to third base with less than two outs. It looked as if one run might be the difference.
"Those big legs were really moving and he wasn’t stopping," Francona said. "He’s a good baserunner."
The subsequent run snapped Marcum’s scoreless streak in Fenway Park at 12 innings and was the catalyst to a victory that helped Boston keep pace with victorious New York and Tampa Bay. An extra 90 feet here and there, anything to provide a spark — that is what is needed down the stretch.
"We have to battle," Ortiz said. "We’re going into the final month of the season and we’ll catch up, win some games."
On Sunday, thanks to the legs of David Ortiz, they did.
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