MINNEAPOLIS -- The possibilities seemed endless as David Ortiz came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning on Tuesday, the chance to be a hero for the second straight night.
A night after hitting a comeback-starting, 438-foot missile in the sixth inning and a go-ahead single in the ninth, Ortiz this time hit the ball maybe 40 feet. It was a dribbler down the first-base line. And somehow, it got the job done.
Twins lefty Phil Dumatrait pounced on it, and in his haste to try to flip the ball to the plate, fell down. Everybody was safe, and that was how the Red Sox snapped a tie and went on to a 4-3 victory.
"We knew that squeeze would work at some point," quipped Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Take 'em when you can get 'em. We've seen him line out. Take what you get."
Judging by television replays, Dustin Pedroia would have been safe at home even if Dumatrait had fielded the ball cleanly. Ortiz was awarded an RBI single.
What was Ortiz thinking at the point of contact?
"Oh [no]," the slugger said. "You hit a ground ball to the pitcher like that, he's got to chase and you've got to run and you have guys coming in. There's a lot of things going on at the same time."
Considering the barrage of singles he loses every season to the overshift on the right side, Ortiz didn't feel any guilt about getting a cheapie.
"I'm glad it was a knock. I'm still down 49 rockets," chuckled Ortiz.
There wasn't much Dumatrait could have done, other than throwing to first, but the run still would have scored.
"I made my pitch and he just happened in a spot where it's a do-or-die play," Dumatrait said. "Unfortunately, I didn't make the play. We battled tonight, and a little mistake like that, you can't [afford to make] against a team like that, and it cost us."
It was an unspectacular win for the Red Sox, for sure, as Ortiz's go-ahead hit demonstrated. But at this juncture of the season, style points mean little. The victory pushed Boston's lead over the Yankees to 2 1/2 games in the American League East.
Once Ortiz put Boston in front, the bullpen took it home. Franklin Morales got two outs. Daniel Bard fired 1 1/3 perfect innings.
And Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth for the save, his 26th in 27 opportunities this season. Pitching for the third straight day, Papelbon converted his 21st consecutive save opportunity, setting a personal record.
"I felt strong," Papelbon said. "I felt good. I felt the ball was coming out of my hand good. I'm just trying to repeat my daily routine and repeat my daily delivery and that's it."
Making his second start for the Red Sox, Erik Bedard went five innings, allowing three hits and two runs. He walked four -- all in the first inning -- and struck out six.
The lefty, in his third outing back from the disabled list, threw 90 pitches, 51 of them for strikes. He took a no-decision.
"I just kept battling, throwing strikes, keeping the ball down, keeping them off-balance," said Bedard.
Bedard was in line for a win, thanks to Jason Varitek, who laced an RBI single to left in the top of the sixth, giving the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.
But for the second straight night, Boston's middle relief crew couldn't preserve a win for a starter. A night after Alfredo Aceves squandered Tim Wakefield's lead, Matt Albers served up a game-tying RBI double to Tsuyoshi Nishioka with two outs in the sixth.
"That was my fault," Varitek said. "You can put that one right on my shoulders. It was a bad call. Matty's throwing the ball well."
Boston's winning rally in the seventh started when Pedroia drew a one-out walk against Matt Capps and Adrian Gonzalez drilled a double into the gap in left-center. Kevin Youkilis drew a walk off Capps to load the bases for Ortiz, who got his 76th -- and probably softest -- RBI of the season off Dumatrait.
"I think Pedey's baserunning helps on that because Pedey is always trying to get the extra step and the extra jump and putting pressure where it's not an easy play," said Francona.
Considering the way the game started, the Red Sox took satisfaction in winning this one.
Bedard was all over the place in the first, throwing 36 pitches, just 16 of them for strikes. All things considered, Bedard minimized the damage by allowing just two runs.
On a night Twins starter Francisco Liriano walked seven, both sides agreed that home plate umpire Tim McClelland's strike zone was on the narrow side. But Bedard didn't let the game get out of hand.
"It could have been real worse," Bedard said. "I try to get a little satisfaction out of it. You've got to bear down in those situations. If you let it get out of hand, the score could have been 6-0. You just keep battling and throwing strikes."
Liriano successfully navigated his way through Boston's lineup over the first four innings, taking a shutout into the fifth. But after Varitek led off the fifth by drawing a walk, Darnell McDonald roped a game-tying, two-run shot into the second deck in left.
"I think it might have been a cutter or something -- there were two strikes," said McDonald. "I was just trying to put the ball in play and he left it in the middle of the plate and I was able to get it in the air."
Even Big Papi was impressed.
"That was a bomb, wasn't it? How far was that?" wondered Ortiz.
Told it was 412 feet, Ortiz smiled, knowing it was a little short of the one he hit on Monday.
"I've still got him," said Ortiz.
As it turns out, Ortiz didn't need another monster home run this time -- instead, just a little dribbler in no-man's land.