But that formula turned out to be the ticket to one of the most dramatic finishes of the season for the Sox, who turned the tables on Indians closer Joe Borowski in a riveting top of the ninth inning Monday night, paving the way for a 6-4 victory at Progressive Field.
Ortiz -- who came into the night hitting .070 -- had been in the throes of a thoroughly frustrating slump. But with two outs in the ninth, he blooped one just in front of Indians left fielder David Dellucci. Speedy Jacoby Ellsbury came off the bench to run for Ortiz. As it turns out, Ellsbury could have walked home.
Ramirez absolutely unloaded on a first-pitch fastball that registered just 82 mph, launching it through the frigid air and way over the wall in left to snap the 4-4 tie.
"I was looking for a good pitch," said Ramirez. "Something that I like."
Asked what the pitch was, Ramirez contemplated it for a second.
"[It was] like a fastball," said Ramirez. "It was something like 80 [mph]. Or a changeup. It was right there."
Put a pitch in Ramirez's wheelhouse and generally he will wreck it.
"It really doesn't matter with the garbage I was throwing out there, especially against him," said Borowski.
It was home run No. 493 in the brilliant career of Ramirez, tying him with Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 24th on the all-time list.
"Manny took such a pretty swing," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Maybe part of it is they have to respect Ellsbury at first. He does run. Manny took a great swing."
But there was a lot more to that ninth-inning comeback than the heroics of Ramirez.
Down by a run entering the inning, the Red Sox staged a furious rally against Borowski. Julio Lugo started it with a leadoff double to left. Coco Crisp perfectly executed a sacrifice bunt that moved Lugo to third. That paid off when Dustin Pedroia hit a sacrifice fly to deep left to tie the game.
"Lugo started it up, that's huge," said Pedroia. "They're playing no-doubles [defense], and he hit it just hard enough to be able to get on second. And then Coco's bunt was perfect. It gave me a chance with the infield in to just find a way to hit it in the outfield and get that run in. That was huge."
And just like that, the 8-6 Red Sox produced their first three-game winning streak of the season. This after an exhausting day that had the Red Sox landing in Cleveland at 3:15 a.m. ET after their Sunday night game against the Yankees.
|"[It was] like a fastball. It was something like 80 [mph]. Or a changeup. It was right there."|
|-- Manny Ramirez, on his home run|
"We're going to have to get him pounding the zone," said Francona. "His stuff is good. He's strong; he's got all the pitches. We've just got to get him in the zone more consistently."
One thing the Red Sox did get from their pitching staff? Big outs out of the bullpen. In particular, Julian Tavarez thrived, giving up two hits and no runs over 2 2/3 innings. The rubber-armed righty walked none and struck out four.
"[He was] awesome," said Pedroia. "That was the biggest part. I know our offense came together late, but our bullpen giving us a chance. That was the biggest part of the game. [Tavarez] came in and ate up innings. Mike Timlin did a great job. It just gave us a chance to get an opportunity in the ninth inning."
Timlin, who had surrendered homers in his first two outings after coming back from the disabled list, pitched a scoreless eighth to get the win. Jonathan Papelbon pinned down the save, striking out two in the bottom of the ninth.
For a while, it looked like the "W" would be going to Cleveland right-hander Jake Westbrook, who limited the Sox to seven hits and two runs (one earned) over 6 1/3 innings.
The Red Sox got out to a 1-0 lead on an RBI double to right by Kevin Youkilis in the first.
But the Indians got two against Lester in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
Down, 4-1, the Sox got one back in the seventh on an infield hit by Pedroia and one more in the eighth on a solo homer by Youkilis.
"He's a professional player," Francona said of Youkilis. "[He] stays on the ball, and that was big. Getting us to one changes the whole game. He's a good player."
As for Ortiz, he had snapped his 0-for-17 drought with a single to left in the first. But in the seventh, with two on and one out and trailing by two, he struck out. So, too, did Ramirez.
But redemption would come calling.
"It was fun at the end," Francona said. "I think there's something to be said for perseverance."
There's also something to be said for coming up with the big home run when your close friend and teammate is still trying to find himself.
"He's going to be fine. He's fine," Ramirez said of Ortiz. "It's only  games. If he doesn't hit, I'll hit for him."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.