500rtiz! Big Papi belts 2 HRs, is club's 27th member
Slugger becomes 3rd active player to reach milestone
ST. PETERSBURG -- David Ortiz became the 27th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 500-home run club on Saturday night when he launched a 2-2 fastball from Matt Moore deep into the right-center-field seats at Tropicana Field to lead off the fifth inning of Boston's 10-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ortiz's no-doubter, his second homer of the game and 34th of the season, made him the third active player to reach the milestone, joining Alex Rodriguez (685) and Albert Pujols (555). The homer also gave Boston an 8-0 lead. Ortiz is the second player to hit his 499th and 500th home run in same game, joining Pujols. Harmon Killebrew and Mark McGwire hit their 500th and 501st homers in the same game.
"What can I tell you? It's a number where it's very hard to get and I've been competing and trying to get things done the right way through the years," the 39-year-old, 19-year veteran Ortiz said after the game. "All the names that you mention that are in the 500 club are legends, so to be part of it is an honor and I'm going to enjoy it."
He quickly turned around on an 80-mph breaking ball from Moore, sending the ball off his bat at 105.6 mph. It traveled a projected distance of 432 feet, according to Statcast™, before landing in Tropicana Field's right-field seats.
The exit velocity on No. 500 was right on par with Ortiz's season average of 105 mph on his home runs, while the 432 feet easily exceeded his season average of 405 feet.
The game was halted for several minutes -- with a thunderous standing ovation prevailing -- after Ortiz went deep, as the entire Red Sox bullpen sprinted in from left field to join the Boston dugout in exchanging hugs, handshakes and high-fives with Big Papi.
"Like I say, this game is very hard to play," he said. "It's a game that's very complicated and once you get to be successful and once you get things done, it's a great accomplishment."
Ortiz hit his 499th home run in the first inning -- a three-run shot -- on a 1-2 pitch by Moore into the right-field seats to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
Ortiz, who recorded the 50th multi-home run game of his career with Saturday night's performance, has 33 career home runs at Tropicana Field, the most by a visiting player in the park's 18-year history.
"Tonight was one of those nights where you feel good, you're swinging the bat good, getting good pitches to hit," said Ortiz of his epic performance. "To hit homers you need to have that good mojo going on, and know what you're really doing at the plate. Have an idea what the pitchers are trying to do.
"Tonight, I got two pitches that I don't really see too much," observed the nine-time All-Star. "When the Rays miss, they usually miss off the plate. As a hitter, I make my living off pitchers' mistakes."
After a single to lead off the seventh inning, Ortiz was lifted for pinch-runner Allen Craig, and received a standing ovation on his way back to the dugout.
"Spectacular day for [Ortiz]. A great accomplishment and one that we all felt was inevitable because of the terrific second half that he's had," beamed Red Sox imterim manager Torey Lovullo after the game. "I'm just happy to be here and be a part of it."
Ortiz has come a long way since being released by the Twins in 2002, and back then, he never could have imagined getting to this point now.
"Not at all. I was just a young player," Ortiz said. "The one thing that I knew that I had to figure out was how to work hard and how to keep learning about the game. I remember Paul Molitor, as a teammate, made a comment that stuck in my head even to this day. He was in the big leagues for 15-20 years at the time and he said he keeps on learning about the game -- and he was absolutely right. It's like a learning process to you, no matter how long you play.
"The fans, man. It's the fans," added Ortiz when asked what keeps him motivated during what has been a disappointing Red Sox season. "You see them everywhere we go. Besides our fans wanting us to be in the playoffs and stuff, they love the game. They come and enjoy the game, and that's something that I think is very special. Even though we're not going to be in the playoffs this year, you still want to come to the field and get prepared to put on a good show ... For all of them."