Manny makes Halos pay
Slugger drills three-run walk-off blast to give Sox victory
BOSTON -- For one night, it seemed that David Ortiz, with all his slugging prowess, had been transformed from the walk-off man to the walk man. It was Game 2 of the American League Division Series between the Red Sox and Angels, and it had started Friday night but showed no signs of ending until early Saturday morning.
By the time the bottom of the ninth inning rolled around -- with the game tied at 3, two outs and a runner on second -- Ortiz drew his fourth walk of the night, and second of the intentional variety. Angels manager Mike Scioscia basically challenged Manny Ramirez, one of the finest right-handed hitters of this or perhaps any generation, to win the game.
With one sweet swing, Ramirez did just that, slamming a majestic three-run walk-off homer to left field off of elite Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez to snap that tie and deliver a 6-3 victory for Boston before the largest postseason crowd (37,706) in the history of Fenway Park.
The Red Sox now hold a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series and will go for the sweep and a ticket to the AL Championship Series behind Curt Schilling on Sunday in Anaheim.
Ramirez was so taken by the moment that he broke his season-long silence with the media.
"In that moment, I'm just trying to see the ball and trust myself," Ramirez said. "I'm not trying to do too much. I've got a lot of confidence in myself. He's one of the greatest closers in the game and I'm one of the best hitters in the game. You know, he missed his spot and I got good timing on the ball, and that's it."
Call it another case of Manny being Manny. It was the left fielder's first home run since Aug. 28, the night he strained his left oblique and was forced to the bench for 24 games.
A tightly contested game that had been tied since Mike Lowell's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth came down to Ramirez, who struck K-Rod's 1-0, 96-mph fastball well over the Coke bottles that hover above the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street to end the four-hour, five-minute contest.
"When a guy hits a ball like that, you might want to pitch to the guy in front of him," quipped Ortiz. "That ball might have hit a car on the highway."
To Lowell, who was standing in the on-deck circle at the moment of impact, it looked more like a surreal streak of lightning.
"Oh my God," said Lowell. "I think I was just in amazement before I really realized the game was over. I mean, I knew the game was over, but he crushed that ball. He crushed it. It's unbelievable. It was one of the best bolts I've seen here. That was pretty unbelievable."
Ramirez's game-ender -- the type Ortiz has hit so many times the last few years -- set off a mob scene of white uniforms at home plate.
"That ball was crushed," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He put a great swing on it. That's why he's one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. He's inside the ball all the time, and he's so short and powerful [with his swing]."
The rally started with Julio Lugo belting a leadoff single to left. Pedroia moved Lugo to second on a hit-and-run groundout. Kevin Youkilis struck out. Then, it was time to walk Ortiz yet again, which wasn't surprising considering his history of late-inning success against the Angels.
"He's hurt this team a little bit and they had to put it in the hands of Manny," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "That's what they had to do."
Not that it left Scioscia with much of a choice. Either he pitches to a perennial MVP candidate in Ortiz or a probable future Hall of Famer in Ramirez.
"Well, you really pick your poison," Scioscia said. "We talked about this all week. Both those guys are terrific. I just think in that situation and the situation before, we're going to take our chances with some matchups. It just made sense not to go after David. It didn't work tonight."
Ramirez made sure it didn't by producing his most memorable hit in recent memory. As the ball rocketed through the air, Ramirez raised both hands above his head in triumph.
|With his three-run walk-off homer vs. the Angels on Friday night, Manny Ramirez became just the fourth player in Red Sox history to end a postseason game with a long ball.|
"It feels great," said Ramirez. "It's been a long time since I've done something special like that. I haven't been right all year. But, I guess when you don't feel good and you still get hits, that's when you know you are a bad man."
His partner in massive run production -- Ortiz -- wasn't about to argue.
"I talked to Manny," said Ortiz. "I told him, 'Can you stop [all the walks]?' He tried, man. He tried. The more you see that happening, the more into the situation you get. It happened four times tonight and he tried to do something about it -- finally, he did."
The Boston bullpen played a huge role in the win, firing 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief behind Daisuke Matsuzaka.
The first postseason appearance in Matsuzaka's Major League career turned out a little flat. The rookie right-hander gave up seven hits and three runs over 4 2/3 innings, throwing 96 pitches. He took a no-decision.
"I think I approached the game in the same way that I approached the regular-season games," Matsuzaka said. "That being said, the results were somewhat disappointing for me. Personally, it was a disappointment, but I'm very happy the team was able to win."
After Matsuzaka's exit, the Red Sox got a key out from Javy Lopez to end the fifth, four more outs from Manny Delcarmen, another four from Hideki Okajima and also 1 1/3 shutout innings from closer Jonathan Papelbon, who earned the win.
Down, 3-2, in the bottom of the fifth, Pedroia led off with a double to right and moved to third on what basically amounted to a swinging bunt by Youkilis.
Ortiz was walked intentionally. Ramirez nearly ended the inning with a foul popup to Halos catcher Jeff Mathis. However, the ball traveled just far enough into the stands for a fan to catch it instead of Mathis. That proved to be vital for Boston, as Ramirez worked a walk to load the bases and Lowell came through with a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game at 3.
It stayed that way for a while. Ramirez finally put an end to the madness and sent his team flying to Southern California with all kinds of momentum.
"It was a great swing," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "But I think part of the reason he got a chance to swing was because David's such a good hitter and such a clutch hitter. It's hard to let David beat you. But Manny's such a good hitter behind him, he made them pay."
Ramirez clearly relished the moment.
"One of the best feelings ever," said Ramirez. "I never look for pitches. I always trust myself. Like I said, in that situation, that guy got me out so many times. But baseball's like that. Sometimes you get me, sometimes I get you. And I got him at the right time."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.