Ortiz blasts one to lift Sox over O's

Ortiz blasts one to lift Sox over O's

BOSTON -- There they were, down to the last strike of the afternoon and staring at another loss to the American League East-leading Orioles. All David Ortiz needed to do to prevent that agony was turn around a B.J. Ryan fastball.

To most left-handed hitters, that would be some improbable pipe dream against such an imposing southpaw closer. But to Ortiz, such heroics have simply become a way of life since he joined the Red Sox in 2003.

Add yet another clip to the ever-growing montage of clutch hits from Ortiz. He flicked his powerful wrists on Ryan's 3-2 fastball and provided the surge of delight the Fenway faithful had been looking for all day long.

With one swing of his lethal bat, Ortiz launched a three-run shot over the wall in center field. The walk-off blast turned what would have been a 4-3 loss into a dramatic 6-4 triumph on Thursday afternoon.

It was the fifth time (including the postseason) Ortiz has clubbed a walk-off blast at Fenway Park.

Yet again, the man known throughout Red Sox Nation as "Big Papi" delivered a big hit.

"David's a special player," said Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He has a great swing; he has a great approach. He has good mechanics. He's powerful. He thrives in that situation."

Ryan -- who didn't allow a run in 16 appearances during May -- had held lefties to a .207 average entering the day. But Ortiz didn't back down, working the count to 3-2. Then he got a choice fastball and mashed it over the wall in straightaway center field.

From there, a familiar scene took place at Fenway Park, with 24 red jerseys mobbing Ortiz.

"I just left it out over the plate," said Ryan. "It was up. He just hit it. I made a mistake and paid for it."

Of course, Ryan is far from the first pitcher to say such things after a late-inning pitch to Ortiz.

"I don't think about the next guy," said Ortiz. "I always think about 'OK, I got to get the job done.' I believe in myself; I believe I can do it. That's all I put in my mind."

To get to Ortiz's parting shot, the Sox did a few little things that wound up being big. Mark Bellhorn reached on a one-out, infield single. After a strikeout to Kevin Youkilis put the Sox down to their last out, Edgar Renteria surveyed the infield and came up with a plan.

Then he executed it, dropping down a perfect bunt single that Melvin Mora -- who was playing back -- had no chance to make a play on. That electrified the crowd and the Red Sox dugout, as everyone knew full well who was coming to the plate.

"When I came to home plate, I saw the third baseman way back," Renteria said. "I knew if I put a bunt down, I was gonna be safe. Nobody was expecting it -- that's a great opportunity to do it."

Ortiz walks away with a win
Orioles at Red Sox, June 2
Since joining the Red Sox at the start of the 2003 season, David Ortiz has hit five walkoff homers (including postseason). Here is a glance at those five memorable shots:
DateOpposing PitcherInningFinal
9/23/03Kurt Ainsworth10thRed Sox 6, Orioles 5
4/11/04Aquilino Lopez12thRed Sox 6, Blue Jays 4
10/8/04*Jarrod Washburn10thRed Sox 8, Angels 6
10/17/04*Paul Quantrill12thRed Sox 6, Yankees 4
6/2/05B.J. Ryan9thRed Sox 6, Angels 4
* denotes postseason play.
After going 1-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs, Ortiz is batting .300 (.305 with runners in scoring position) with 13 homers, through June 2.

While Renteria's early-season struggles became the talk of town, they've just as quickly become a distant memory. The irony of how his luck is changing was not lost on Renteria, who remembers trying to bunt in Detroit on May 5 and instead almost breaking a finger in the process.

"If I had done it two weeks ago, it was an out. Right now, I feel so much confidence," said Renteria.

The exhilarating victory prevented the Sox from losing three out of four at home to the Orioles. Instead of falling five games behind, the Sox inched within three games of the Birds, whom they see next at Camden Yards for a four-game series that begins on July 7.

The Orioles had just moved in front in the top of the ninth, getting an infield single, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt and a fielder's-choice RBI. Sox closer Keith Foulke certainly deserved a better fate, and Ortiz made sure he'd get one.

"[Foulke] did a lot of good things," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I don't think Foulkie was very happy when he came into the dugout, but I don't think he was upset at the way he threw."

Just a few minutes later, Foulke was the winning pitcher.

There was a time, though, when it didn't that seem such a dramatic win would be needed.

After all, the Sox -- with red-hot Matt Clement on the mound -- took the lead early. With Johnny Damon (who came in for the late innings) getting a rare day off, Youkilis batted leadoff for the first time this season, and it paid immediate dividends, as he smashed a double to left-center in the first. Renteria moved Youkilis to third on a flyout to right, and Ortiz made it 1-0 Sox with a fielder's-choice grounder to first. But it didn't take the Orioles long to respond, as Jay Gibbons belted a solo shot to right with two outs in the top of the second.

The Sox rallied against Orioles rookie Hayden Penn, who was making his second Major League start, in the fourth. With runners on second and third and one out, Varitek clubbed a two-run double down the line in left.

That 3-1 lead stood until the sixth, when the Orioles put together their most substantial rally of the day against Clement. B.J. Surhoff smoked an RBI to left-center to get Baltimore within one. Chris Gomez tied it up with a fielder's-choice grounder to second.

It stayed tied until that most eventful of ninth innings.

The way Ortiz looks at it, the bulk of his paycheck comes for moments like these.

"I do nothing except go up there and hit," said the DH. "That's the only way I can get people to know me, going out there and producing at the right time."

It's hard to come up with a hitter who has produced at the right time more often than Ortiz the past couple of years.

"Like a basketball player who takes the shot at the buzzer, he relishes that," said Francona. "And he's taken a lot of good swings."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.