BOSTON -- It has reached the point where David Ortiz's parting shots into the cheap seats have become almost too overwhelming -- and too frequent -- for his teammates to know exactly what to say to him when he lands at home plate and finds that sea of white jerseys waiting for him.
Now, grown men find themselves in a sheer state of awe, wondering how the same man can come up big so many times with the game on the line.
The latest walk-off blast by Ortiz came on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park, when he clocked an ill-fated curveball by Tom Gordon and hammered it to center field for a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the 10th. Red Sox 5, Phillies 3.
And so it was that a packed house of 35,654 went home happy after witnessing yet another dramatic capper by No. 34, who has now slugged eight walk-off homers (including postseason) since joining the Red Sox at the start of the 2003 season.
If the fans were shrieking with joy upon their exit, the Boston players had roughly the same level of excitement.
"They were just kind of looking at me like a whole bunch of 10-year-olds," Ortiz said of his teammates. "They were like, 'You're amazing.' That's a good feeling."
The surging Sox have now won eight in a row, all against National League East foes.
Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, who earned the win with 2 1/3 clutch innings, knew what was coming, even after Ortiz had swung and missed at consecutive Gordon pitches.
"I said to Willie Harris, 'Papi is just setting him up,' and sure enough he did it," marveled Papelbon.
If Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley invented the "walk-off" moniker, it seems that Ortiz has created a signature celebration for such a finish. And sure enough, the helmet again came flying off a few steps before he touched home.
"It's cool, but at the same time, you have to make sure you get your helmet off, otherwise you know you're going to go crazy with a concussion," said Ortiz. "You know, I started that off, taking my helmet off. Now I see everyone in the league doing it. I saw somebody the other day doing it, somebody that hit a walk-off. I've seen a couple of guys. Hey, when they see you, and you don't have your helmet, they take it easy. When you keep it on, man, that was an experience from my first walk-off homer here. I went to the video and saw Trot Nixon just hammering me, like I was his enemy."
Nixon takes no shame from fully embracing such a moment, even as it happens enough times to make Fenway feel like Groundhog Day.
"It's like a melee in there half the time," said Nixon. "It's unique, just what he's done in his time here. The big clutch hits that he's had, it doesn't surprise me anymore. At any moment, he's got the capability of winning a game, tying a game. It's special."
Gordon, who saw Ortiz almost single-handedly dismantle his Yankees during the 2004 American League Championship Series, didn't have to guess what the destination point would be for the baseball after he hung that 2-2 curve.
"I went to a curveball, left it over the middle of the plate," said Gordon. "He's too good a hitter to leave a breaking ball over the middle of the plate in that situation. He's faced me too many times where he's seen my curveball, and I missed, so he made me pay. But it was definitely the pitch I wanted to go to in that count."
"They were just kind of looking at me like a whole bunch of 10-year-olds. They were like, 'You're amazing.' That's a good feeling."
-- Ortiz, on his teammates
Early on, the story was Curt Schilling, who registered a season high of 10 strikeouts in his first six innings of work. But the ace faltered in the seventh, leaving with the bases loaded and nobody out, leading to the squandering of a 3-2 lead.
It was Schilling's third consecutive no-decision as win No. 10 continues to be elusive for the big right-hander.
The Red Sox built some momentum before that walk-off rally, thanks to the escape work of Papelbon in the top of the ninth. With runners on second and third and one out, Chase Utley hit a grounder to short. With the infield playing in, Alex Gonzalez quickly came up with it and fired to the plate, where Jason Varitek applied the tag to nail Chris Coste. After a walk to Bobby Abreu loaded the bases, Papelbon fired a 97-mph heater by Pat Burrell to end the
"Where do you start and how does it end?" Schilling said of Papelbon. "It's just consistency. The confidence that he feels, it just makes you jealous because it's such a great feeling to be where he's at right now."
Perhaps only Ortiz can relate.
"It's a good situation to walk into," said Ortiz. "Like I said before, the worst thing that can happen is not getting the job done."
Short hops format/producers
Papi of walk-offs
Since joining the Red Sox at the start of the 2003 season, David Ortiz has hit eight walk-off homers (including postseason). A glance at those eight memorable shots:
Sept. 23, 2003
Sox 6, Orioles 5
April 11, 2004
Sox 6, Jays 4
Oct. 8, 2004*
Sox 8, Angels 6
Oct. 17, 2004*
Sox 6, Yanks 4
June 2, 2005
Sox 6, Orioles 4
Sept. 6, 2005
Sox 3, Angels 2
June 11, 2006
Sox 5, Rangers 4
June 24, 2006
Sox 5, Phillies 3
*denotes postseason play
The day started in a bit of an uphill climb for the Red Sox. The Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on a two-run single up the middle by Abreu.
The Red Sox got one right back in the bottom of the first against Phillies starter Brett Myers, getting back-to-back singles from Mark Loretta (who later left the game with a mild neck strain) and Ortiz and then a sac fly to the warning track in right by Manny Ramirez.
Myers, who was arrested in Boston less than 48 hours earlier for charges of domestic abuse, was put on the ropes by the Sox in the second. Mike Lowell led off with a homer to left to tie the game and Loretta delivered an RBI single up the middle to give the Sox their first lead. With the bases loaded and two outs, Ramirez, who belted two homers on Friday night, had a chance to break the game open. Instead, he struck out looking and Myers kept the Sox at bay from there.
The early game of back and forth became a distant memory by the end of the day, as Ortiz again sent everybody home.
"He's just grown more and more as a hitter," said Nixon. "With David, he can be kind of silent throughout the whole day and then, just like that, bam, game over."
"He's unbelievable," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I hope I get to sit here and say that a lot more times."
Surely, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this type of history will repeat itself again.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.