Never afraid to shine with the game on the line, the burly designated hitter clocked a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth -- his second homer of the contest -- to give the Red Sox a 3-2 victory over the White Sox at Fenway Park.
In a 2009 season that has included slumps and steroid allegations for the veteran bopper, Ortiz reminded the Fenway faithful why they adored him in the first place -- walk-off heroics.
Did Wednesday feel like old times for Big Papi?
"Oh yeah," said Ortiz, whose nine career walk-off homers with Boston are the most in club history.
"A guy like me, I don't like to play extra innings."
The Red Sox's dramatic win extended their lead in the American League Wild Card race to 2 1/2 games over the Rangers, who lost to the Yankees on Wednesday. Boston (73-53) has won four of its past five games, and seven of nine dating back to Aug. 18.
Ortiz's decisive swat followed a sharp outing from Tim Wakefield, who made his return to the mound after a five-week stint on the disabled list with lower back and left calf ailments.
The 43-year-old right-hander, who reeled off 17 straight strikes to begin his start, took a no-decision, allowing six hits over seven innings of one-run ball to remain undefeated at home this season (7-0) with a 3.65 ERA.
"I wanted to contribute as much as I could," said Wakefield, who made a pair of rehabilitation starts before being activated. "My mind-set was to go as deep into the game as I could."
"I don't know how he did it," manager Terry Francona said, "but he was fantastic. That was more than you could possibly expect. He pounded the strike zone. That was unbelievable."
Also impressive was the defensive performance of Victor Martinez, who used a first baseman's mitt while catching a knuckleballer for the first time in a game situation.
|A look at David Ortiz's 10 career walk-off home runs during the regular season::|
|4/11/2004||Aquilino Lopez||Blue Jays||12|
|8/26/2009||Tony Pena||White Sox||9|
"I had a lot of fun," Martinez said. "The drills that I did with [bullpen coach Gary Tuck] really helped me out a lot. [Wakefield] had a lot of movement today. Like Gary told me, I just had to relax and let the ball come to me. It doesn't have to be pretty. You just have to catch it."
"For the first time catching me in a game, with hitters up there, he did a phenomenal job," Wakefield said. "I'm very happy for him."
Despite his brilliant effort, Boston could not spot Wakefield a victory, as pinch-hitter Scott Podsednik clocked an eighth-inning homer off Ramon Ramirez to tie the game at 2.
Chicago (63-64) put Wakefield and Boston in an early hole, as Paul Konerko lofted a first-inning RBI triple to deep center field that scored Gordon Beckham.
Ortiz responded in the home half of the second, sending a fastball from White Sox starter Gavin Floyd over the Green Monster. Alex Gonzalez followed in the sixth with a long ball of his own off Floyd, who yielded two runs on five hits over six innings.
Daniel Bard (1-1) worked 1 1/3 scoreless frames to earn his first Major League win, a feat made possible by a thunderous blast off the bat of Ortiz.
Facing Tony Pena (1-2), the slugger eyed a 1-0 pitch to his liking and drilled it into the right-field seats for his seventh homer in 11 contests.
"We needed him," Francona said.
"My first time seeing the big daddy hit a walk-off homer," said Martinez, who witnessed Ortiz's late-game firework displays from afar before joining the Red Sox at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. "It was awesome."
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.