Ortiz's three-run homer to right off a Joba Chamberlain breaking ball gave the Red Sox a 5-3 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park as Boston snapped a five-game losing streak
"We needed a win," Boston manager John Farrell said. "There was no doubt about it."
Nor was there any doubt about Ortiz's blast, his 19th at Detroit's home ballpark, the most by any visiting player in Comerica Park history.
"I should come and play in this division, don't you think?" Ortiz joked after the game.
For a while, it seemed as if the same fate that befell John Lackey in his last start would find him again Sunday. Like his previous outing, he threw solid eight innings. But even though he allowed only two earned runs, Lackey was in line for the loss until Ortiz silenced the crowd.
But Lackey's performance was overshadowed by not only Ortiz, but Brock Holt, as well. The 25-year-old logged four hits, made a massive run-saving catch in the third and started the game-winning rally in the ninth with a single.
Farrell had to figure out a way to get Holt into the lineup as his leadoff man, so he stuck him out in left field.
Even though Holt hadn't played outfield in the big leagues, Farrell figured his athleticism should make him serviceable. If all else failed, at least Jackie Bradley Jr. was there in center field to help Holt cover the large Comerica Park outfield.
Holt didn't need Bradley Jr., but, Sunday night, the Red Sox needed Holt.
Boston opened scoring in the third inning with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Dustin Pedroia that scored Bradley.
The Tigers countered in the bottom of the frame with an RBI single by rookie Eugenio Suarez. Holt saved the inning from turning into a big one for Detroit when, with two outs and a man on first for the Tigers, he made a running catch in deep left field that prevented Ian Kinsler from an extra-base hit and the Red Sox from relinquishing their lead.
Detroit went ahead, 2-1, in the fourth with a pair of base hits from its two biggest sluggers. Miguel Cabrera -- who later exited the game with left hamstring tightness -- led off the inning with a double, and Victor Martinez singled him home.
But Napoli, in his first game back from the disabled list, tied the game in the sixth inning with a solo shot off Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers' starter hadn't given up a home run since Game 5 of last season's American League Championship Series, when Napoli got the better of him.
Working deep into counts early, the Red Sox ensured Sanchez's outing would be a short one, getting to a Detroit bullpen that has had its share of woes this season. By the fourth inning, Boston had touched Sanchez up for as many hits as he had allowed in each of his last three starts. Napoli's sixth-inning homer came on Sanchez's 101st pitch of the night.
Holt tripled down the right-field line in the seventh inning, after Sanchez exited the game. Pedroia walked on four pitches to bring up Ortiz, who flied out to deep center field to end the threat.
The missed opportunity came back to haunt the Red Sox. In the bottom of the inning, Xander Bogaerts fumbled a sharp grounder at third base, allowing the Tigers to put two men on with no outs. The rookie Suarez picked up another RBI with a base hit to left.
In Lackey's opinion, Ortiz's game-winning smash of the hanging breaking ball from Chamberlain was a product of Napoli standing in the on-deck circle.
"Are you kidding me?" Lackey said. "They wouldn't have thrown one near the strike zone if that dude wasn't standing on deck."
Farrell said that "Mike Napoli's presence was definitely felt here tonight."
With nowhere to put Ortiz, Chamberlain was forced to attack him head on. Ortiz won the battle, sending Boston off to Baltimore with a much-needed win.
"We have that sense pretty much every time he hits," Lackey said, when asked if he saw the game-winning homer coming. "He's special. It's funny, you almost expect it."
When the Red Sox won five consecutive games at the end of last month, a three-run home run by Ortiz against the Braves started the streak.
"Hopefully this gives us the same kind of boost and jump-starts us once again," Farrell said.