As it turned out, the alternative -- a three-run double off the wall -- was pretty big anyway, both for Ortiz and the Red Sox.
The clutch knock, delivered in the top of the seventh against lefty reliever Boone Logan, fueled the Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the White Sox on Saturday.
As Ortiz arrived at second base, he clenched his right fist in appreciation. Just like that, he had produced as many RBIs with one swing as he had in his first seven games of August.
Yes, Big Papi thought he had left the yard.
"Oh yeah, oh yeah," said Ortiz. "Papi knows when the ball is gone, but I guess Mother Nature doesn't want me to hit it out tonight. The wind was blowing really hard tonight."
Dustin Pedroia, who helped set the table for Ortiz by snapping the 1-1 tie with an RBI single, couldn't help but poke some good-natured fun at his teammate.
"That double was hilarious when he thought it was gone," said Pedroia. "You've got to be a strong man to leave this place to [left-center]. It was great to see that. Hopefully, he can build on it and keep going."
Speaking of keeping it going, Daisuke Matsuzaka, a win machine for Boston this season, improved to 13-2. The right-hander went a season-high eight innings, allowing four hits. In the process, Matsuzaka lowered his ERA to 2.90. The case could be made that this was Dice-K's best start of the year.
"He continues to not give up hits," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "A couple of leadoff walks. It seems like, for a guy who gave up four hits, it seemed like he had to pitch out of a lot of jams."
Matsuzaka helped himself greatly by inducing the White Sox into four double-play grounders.
"I didn't want to be responsible for our second loss in a row," said Matsuzaka. "I knew that we're facing a good team out there today. It wasn't going to be easy. I made some mistakes, but I was able to hang in there and battle through, and I felt like I was able to pitch like myself a little bit today."
On a night the Sox had been shut down early, Ortiz's towering wall ball turned a tense one-run game into a 5-1 cushion. It was the exclamation point of a three-hit night for Ortiz, who entered the contest with just three hits in his previous 28 at-bats.
"I've been working on my stuff and trying to do something to help," said Ortiz, who has been trying to find his way since being activated from the disabled list on July 25.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who has broken out of his slump the past few days, padded the lead with a solo homer to right in the eighth inning.
The White Sox suffered a major blow in the top of the second inning when Ellsbury created an infield hit with his speed. White Sox starter Jose Contreras got a full head of steam on his way to first to cover the first-base bag, but stumbled multiple times and ruptured his left Achilles' tendon, an injury that is all but certain to end his season.
"You don't want to see that happen -- to anybody," said Francona.
D.J. Carrasco was thrust into emergency duty, and he came up huge (4 1/3 innings, one run) for Chicago. The White Sox were able to break the scoreless tie on Orlando Cabrera's RBI single in the bottom of the fifth.
That lead didn't last long.
The Red Sox finally got a rally going in the sixth. Ortiz started it by dropping a single into center. With one out, Mike Lowell delivered a single to right, and Ortiz chugged to third.
Where did that timely burst of speed come from?
"I've been watching Jacoby and Coco [Crisp] doing it," said Ortiz. "Why not?"
For Lowell, it was the end of an 0-for-17 slump. When Jason Bay beat out a fielder's-choice grounder to third, it enabled Ortiz to trot home with the tying run.
The sixth inning merely set the stage for the game-breaking seventh, which could pay a lot bigger dividends than the one win if it is the start of Ortiz being Ortiz again.
"He hit a couple of line drives [earlier in the game]. He feels a little better about himself," said Francona. "Logan comes in, he's got a funky angle and he's got some velocity behind the ball. Again, we needed a big hit."
Ortiz, as he has done so many times in the past, delivered.
"Like I say, some days you get frustrated but at the same time, I think about ... I missed two months of the season and I'm still not 100 percent," said Ortiz. "I don't want to be too crazy and try to overdo things so they get worse."
If Saturday served as any indication, things are getting better for Ortiz, which can only mean the same for the Red Sox.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.