Papi powers Red Sox to Game 1 win

Papi powers Red Sox to Game 1 win

BOSTON -- David Ortiz entered the first game of Sunday's doubleheader against the Rangers in an unfamiliar spot -- hitting .256 and just .167 (4-for-24) with two home runs and three RBIs in June. But, with two outs, two runners on and the Red Sox down by two runs in the ninth inning, Ortiz found himself in a familiar spot -- facing an opposing pitcher with the game hanging in the balance.

Ortiz turned Akinori Otsuka's 2-and-2 two-seamer around, depositing it into the right-field bleachers, delivering a 5-4 walk-off victory for the Sox. It was his sixth career regular-season walk-off home run, the fifth in his four seasons with the Red Sox, which complement his two walk-off roundtrippers in the 2004 playoffs.

"The way things are going right now, I really want to put a good swing on the ball," Ortiz said. "That's what has been happening to me a lot this year ... the only ball they can't take away from me is the one I hit out of the park, I guess. I've been trying to fight back."

"It was beautiful," Sox manager Terry Francona said of Ortiz's home run swing. "So many times because of a key play we get David or Manny [Ramirez] to the plate and we feel like we always have a chance. It's a tough way to win, but what a great swing."

Pitcher Manny Delcarmen, who entered the game in the eighth inning, was the beneficiary of Ortiz's dramatics, recording his first Major League victory.

Josh Beckett, who went 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks while striking out seven, no longer resembled the imposter who was lit up in Toronto and New York in his previous two starts, but was once again done in by the long ball, this time a two-run home run by Kevin Mench that gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning, ending Beckett's afternoon.

"Any time you get a big win like that, it's nice for the team," Beckett said. "It was big for me coming off two really bad outings, and then today was definitely sub-par. I want to work a little bit deeper in that game. The fifth inning took a lot out of me, just as far as pitch count goes [37 pitches in the inning]. They came to me and asked me if I wanted to say in, and I said, 'Yes.' Trying to save the bullpen, knowing we have a doubleheader. I got out there, get the first guy out, walk the second guy, give up the home run.

"It comes down to those three, four pitches that you must execute. That was one that I needed to execute and I didn't get it done. [Ortiz] picked me up."

Mench's home run, with Brad Wilkerson aboard after a walk with one out in the sixth, broke a 2-2 tie. It was the 17th home run allowed this season by Beckett, a career high. In his previous two starts, Beckett had given up four home runs to the Blue Jays and three-run home runs to Andy Phillips and Jason Giambi last Tuesday in New York.

"It was definitely an improvement on the last couple of outings," Francona said of Beckett's performance. "They made him throw a lot of pitches. I thought he two-seamed it more effectively, got some breaking balls over. The pitch that Mench hit was actually a changeup that he threw a bit too firmly. It was a lot better. Again, this is a team that, as we've seen, I say this probably too often, but there's a lot of good fastball-hitting teams in our league and this is one of them. I thought he did OK."

For much of the afternoon, Beckett kept the Rangers in the ballpark. He was touched for an unearned run in the first, after first baseman Kevin Youkilis dropped a throw from shortstop Alex Gonzalez on Michael Young's one-out chopper. Beckett froze Mark Teixeira with an offspeed pitch for a called third strike for the second out, but Hank Blalock drew a walk and Mark DeRosa's double to left scored Young.

Short hops format/producers

Papi of walk-offs
Since joining the Red Sox at the start of the 2003 season, David Ortiz has hit seven walk-off homers (including postseason). A glance at those seven memorable shots:
Sept. 23, 2003Kurt Ainsworth10thSox 6, Orioles 5
April 11, 2004Aquilino Lopez12thSox 6, Jays 4
Oct. 8, 2004*Jarrod Washburn10thSox 8, Angels 6
Oct. 17, 2004*Paul Quantrill12thSox 6, Yanks 4
June 2, 2005B.J. Ryan9thSox 6, Orioles 4
Sept. 6, 2005Scot Shields9thSox 3, Angels 2
June 11, 2006Akinori Otsuka9thSox 5, Rangers 4
*denotes postseason play

The Sox tied the score when Ramirez homered off Kevin Millwood to open the second, his second home run in two days, 16th of the season, and sixth to the opposite field.

The Sox went ahead, 2-1, in the third on singles by Gonzalez, Mark Loretta and Ortiz, but Millwood escaped further damage when Ramirez flied to the track in right field and Youkilis was called out on strikes.

Millwood, who turned down an offer from the Sox to sign as a free agent with the Rangers in December, dodged trouble again in the fourth, when the Sox put runners on second and third with one out on a single by Jason Varitek and a double by Willie Harris, playing right field in place of Trot Nixon. Gonzalez tapped out to third, and Coco Crisp rolled out to first.

The Rangers tied the score with the help of a bit of controversy in the fifth. Rod Barajas hit an 0-and-2 pitch for a double to left, and Ian Kinsler followed with a line drive down the third-base line, which sent third-base umpire Paul Schrieber airborne to avoid being hit by the ball. Schrieber, who turned his back to the liner, raised his arms -- which could have been interpreted as a "foul" call -- but plate umpire Jim Joyce ruled correctly that the ball had kicked up chalk on the line. Barajas easily scored on the play and Kinsler was credited with a double.

Francona engaged Joyce in a long but fruitless discussion. Beckett then walked Gary Matthews Jr. before retiring the next three batters, but threw 37 pitches in the inning, raising his total to 101 through five innings. He was at 112 pitches when Francona pulled him after Mench's home run in the sixth.

A walk and a third-strike wild pitch to Harris gave the Sox two more baserunners with two out in the sixth, but Gonzalez rolled out. Reliever Ron Mahay was lifted with two out and a runner on first in the seventh, but Scott Feldman struck out Ramirez on a wicked slider to end the inning, then worked a 1-2-3 eighth before turning the game over to Otsuka in the ninth.

Otsuka got Harris to ground out, before giving up consecutive singles to pinch-hitter Nixon and Crisp. Loretta flied out to center, setting the stage for Ortiz's dramatics. Ortiz was down, 0-2, before taking two pitches to even the count. He fouled off Otsuka's fifth offering, and ended the game on the sixth pitch of the at-bat.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.