Ortiz's jolt sends Sox to N.Y. on high note

BOSTON -- The dry erase board in the Boston Red Sox's clubhouse on Wednesday night listed the time the bus was set to leave for the airport for the team to catch its flight to New York, as it always does on getaway day. "Bus - 7:55," it read.

David Ortiz began getting dressed at 8:04 p.m.

He spoke with reporters at 8:10.

And he sauntered out of the clubhouse, the last member of the team -- player or coach -- at 8:14, off to the Bronx to begin a big four-game series with the Yankees.

The bus isn't leaving without Big Papi. After another in a seemingly never-ending string of incredibly clutch home runs that lifted a dormant team to a momentum-building win, he might as well be driving it.

"Seen that before, right? Seems like we're just trying to win a ballgame and he's adding to his Hall of Fame resume," teammate Jonny Gomes said. "He's a heck of a player, a heck of a clutch player."

Ortiz smacked a three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Sox -- who were headed toward a 1-5 homestand before the blast -- to a 4-2 win that was reminiscent of his game-saving blasts in October and allowed many in the clubhouse to breathe a sigh of relief. Heading into the series at Yankee Stadium on Thursday is one thing, but doing so after a miserable homestand would have been another.

Fortunately for Boston, Ortiz softened the blow and may have provided the kick-start the defending world champs need to get a run going.

"I'm the kind of hitter, I always believe that one at-bat, one good at-bat, gets momentum going, especially when things are not going that well," said Ortiz, whose shot was his 375th in a Red Sox uniform.

Things weren't going that well until the bottom of the eighth. Andrew Miller had given up a run in the top of the inning to stake Texas to a 2-1 advantage. A walk and a single opened the Boston half before Dustin Pedroia grounded out to put runners at the corners.

Rangers manager Ron Washington made the expected call to the bullpen to bring in lefty Neal Cotts, against whom Ortiz was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. One of those encounters occurred one night earlier during Texas' 10-7 win. Ortiz whiffed, but made some mental notes.

And so, when Cotts tried to buzz an inside fastball by the big slugger, he pounced on it. The result was a majestic shot over the foul pole in right. Ortiz stood at home plate for several seconds, not to admire it but to make sure it was fair. If it was, it was gone.

"Yeah, he's a guy whose ball moves hard away late. Against lefties especially," Ortiz said of Cotts. "This is a guy that you see once in a while. That at-bat that I had against him the other night helped me out to make some adjustments today. It worked."

In more ways than one. Once Koji Uehara did his thing to close the door in the ninth, Boston was feeling pretty good about itself for the first time since the World Series ring ceremonies that began the homestand.

"Yeah, huge hit. Hopefully this gives us a little momentum, finishing out a series win here," manager John Farrell said. "We're going on a long road trip. Hopefully this is a jump-start for us. So many times has he bailed us out. No different today, particularly a matchup that was way in favor of Cotts. Five at-bats, five strikeouts. This time David got him."

Ortiz's homer was one of just four hits for the Sox, who also increased their major league lead by grounding into two more double plays in what was mostly a lackluster offensive showing. There has been a sense among the players that a floodgate might soon open, and Ortiz might have hit the switch in the eighth.

"With the horses we got, we get in a rhythm offensively, we're gonna win," catcher David Ross said.

Of course, there were other factors in seizing momentum. Starter Jake Peavy was excellent, allowing only a solo home run in 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight, tied for his high as a member of the Red Sox.

Peavy has only been with the team since the middle of last season, but he, too, has a keen sense of how the one mighty swing from the mightiest member of the lineup can alter things at Fenway.

"You can't count the big boy out. You can't count this ballclub out," he said.

To the Sox players, that's what is special about Ortiz. A homestand that had seen sloppy play, injuries, two poor starts and inconsistent offense (at best) could all be forgotten if he steps up with a chance to deliver the equalizer, or in this case, the dagger.

"It's hard enough to hit in this game at this level," Gomes said. "It's a step harder to situational hit, even a step higher to get the situation done. All the way down to, we needed a grand slam against Detroit [in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series]. He came through with that. Not just a walk with the bases loaded. We needed to get them all. And he did it.

"He shines the most when the light's the brightest. Nothing new."

While the Red Sox talk momentum, the old adage stipulates that it is only as good as your next day's starting pitcher. That would be Clay Buchholz, who will have plenty of attention as his teammates and a legion of fans watch to see if he can rebound from a poor season-opening start. At the very least, those observers will be watching with a slightly better feeling about the team as a whole. Perhaps Ortiz's homer took some pressure off Buchholz. Maybe it will spur a winning streak.

What is clear to the Red Sox is this: If Ortiz has a chance, then the team has a chance. Who cares if they have to wait on the bus a little longer?