By: Alex Dominguez - Writer
Posted 9/13/07 - David Ortiz was sure his fly ball would be caught. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays thought so, too.
Then, the game took a twist.
Ortiz hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning that barely cleared the low right-field wall — eluding Delmon Young — and lifted the Boston Red Sox over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5-4 Wednesday night.
Ortiz homered twice and drove in all five runs as the Red Sox held their five-game edge over New York in the AL East. The Yankees open a three-game series at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Julio Lugo drew a leadoff walk from Al Reyes (2-3) in the ninth and one out later, with fans standing and hoping for Ortiz to get another big hit, he delivered.
“It was too high,” Ortiz said. “That was a good pitch by him.
Young appeared to have a chance to catch it, but he ran too far toward the Pesky Pole. Reversing direction, Young twisted his body and arrived too late as the ball fell in the stands behind him.
“I think he went to the line maybe too hard,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “That ball was really high and it just floated back toward the middle of the field. I think that if he had been able to get to the right spot he probably would have been able to catch it.”
Boston manager Terry Francona said he couldn’t see the ball from his angle in the dugout.
“I was too busy blowing on it,” he said. “I thought maybe it hit the wall.”
Red Sox players poured from the dugout and surrounded Ortiz at the plate after his 10th game-winning homer with Boston and his first this year.
Jonathan Papelbon (1-2) got the win.
“That’s the biggest thing, keeping the five-game lead and going into the series with the momentum,” he said. “It shows that we have the makeup that teams have to go 27 outs.”
The Devil Rays had wasted leads of 4-0 and 8-1 and lost 16-10 on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, B.J. Upton’s 24th homer, a two-run shot, helped them to a 4-0 lead in the first.
Ortiz began Boston’s comeback in the third, hitting a three-run homer after a single by Lugo and a walk to Pedroia. That gave Ortiz his 30th homer and 102 RBIs — he has reached 30 homers and at least 100 RBIs in all five of his seasons with Boston.
Ortiz tied Jimmie Foxx for second in club history with five consecutive 30-home run seasons; Manny Ramirez has six straight.
Ortiz, battling knee and shoulder problems, is on a tear. In his last 27 games, he has 12 homers and 33 RBIs and raised his batting average from .311 to .321.
“It’s that time of year,” Francona said.
Lugo, in his first season with Boston, was more impressed.
“He’s the greatest, man. He’s the best,” he said. “That’s why they call him Big Papi because he can carry the team.”
Boston starter Jon Lester pitched 3 2-3 innings, his second shortest outing in nine starts. But four relievers held the Devil Rays to just one hit — a single by Josh Wilson in the eighth — in 5 1-3 innings.
Tampa Bay won 1-0 on Monday night and wasted no time continuing its hitting from Tuesday’s game.
“It’s a tough place to win,” Maddon said. “We were in a position to win three games here and won one of them.”
Carlos Pena singled for his 110th RBI in the first and Upton homered off the screen attached to the right-field foul pole, making it 3-0. Brandon Harris doubled and scored on Jonny Gomes’ single for a 4-0 lead.
Lester was bailed out by Julian Tavarez after leaving with runners at first and third with two outs in the fourth. Tavarez retired Harris on a grounder and set down the next seven batters before walking Young with one out in the seventh.
Lester extended his unbeaten streak to 12 games — he’s 6-0 in that span — but became the fourth starter in Boston’s last seven games to fail to get out of the fourth.
That happened only four times in the first 140 games. And it was the first time that had happened in consecutive games. Tim Wakefield left Tuesday’s game after the first three batters got hits in the fourth.