BOSTON -- Prior to the game, in the first of three ceremonies that will be held for David Ortiz this weekend, the Red Sox chose to focus on the generous slugger's off-field accomplishments.But once it was time to play baseball, Ortiz's bat again stole the show and led his team
BOSTON -- Prior to the game, in the first of three ceremonies that will be held for David Ortiz this weekend, the Red Sox chose to focus on the generous slugger's off-field accomplishments.
But once it was time to play baseball, Ortiz's bat again stole the show and led his team to a 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday night at Fenway Park.
Though Ortiz will retire once the Red Sox are done playing this season, he continues to bash the baseball in timely situations just as he's done in all 14 of his seasons in Boston.
His latest home run? It was a two-run laser beam to right that snapped a 3-3 tie and delivered a potentially damaging blow to the Jays, who now hold the second American League Wild Card spot by just a half-game over the Tigers. Earlier in the game, Ortiz laced an RBI single to snap an 0-for-10 spell.
"On a night that begins a weekend celebration, I don't know that you can write a script any better than what David did tonight offensively," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He turns this place upside down, given the time of the game, what was needed."
Ortiz appreciates the love he is getting from the Red Sox, and the appreciation every other opponent has given him on the road this season.
But what gives him the biggest charge is that he knows he's about to lead his team into one final postseason run, which will start in Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Thursday against the Indians. Home-field advantage for that showdown is still up for grabs, as Boston leads Cleveland, which beat Kansas City on Friday, by a half-game and owns the tiebreaker. The Rangers wrapped up home field throughout the postseason with a win over the Rays.
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"I'm focused," said Ortiz. "I just want to go out there and do something when I step up to the plate. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."
It worked against Blue Jays lefty reliever Brett Cecil, as Ortiz looked for heat and got it. And crushed it.
Hitting coach Chili Davis loved the approach, and will miss thinking along with Ortiz next season.
"To go out the way he's going out is special, and it's special to be around. I'm glad to be here to see it," said Davis. "He's a superb hitter. I forgot who he said he was talking to, it might have been the catcher, who said, 'Why are you so good?' He looked at him and said, 'I used to be better when I was younger.' That's the type of player he is. He'll probably hit when he's 80 years old, sad to say. He might make a comeback when he's 80."
At the age of 40, Ortiz has 38 home runs, his highest total since he smashed a career-high 54 in 2006.
With two games left, there's at least a chance Ortiz could finish his career with a 40-homer season, something no one has done or even come close to.
"Forty-forty? I mean, you know, what can I tell you," said Ortiz, who also has 48 doubles. "Pretty good season. If it happens, it happens, and it's all gravy."
Prior to the game, there was a poignant touch in the air as Ortiz was honored for his work off the field.
Many of the children from the Dominican Republic and Boston who had open-heart surgery with the funding of the David Ortiz Children's Fund were on the field for the ceremony.
Ortiz greeted each one them individually with a handshake.
Joaquin Maldonado Mendoza, a 15-year-old boy from the Dominican Republic who is healthy following heart surgery, threw the first pitch to Ortiz. He was accompanied on the mound by Roberto Clemente Jr., the son of baseball's most famous humanitarian.
Ortiz, the beloved designated hitter for the Red Sox since 2003, was presented with a portrait of him hitting at Fenway Park drawn by renowned lithograph artist Peter Max.
There will be 100 of those lithographs sold, with all proceeds going to the David Ortiz Children's Fund.
"I'm happy and proud of the things that I have done," Ortiz said prior to the game.
There will also be ceremonies prior to Saturday's 7:10 p.m. ET game and Sunday's regular-season finale, which will start at 3:05 p.m.
Those ceremonies will be streamed live on MLB.com and will each have a different theme.
The Red Sox urge fans to be in their seats by 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Fans should also be in their seats each time Ortiz comes to the plate. There are only so many opportunities to see him rise to the occasion.
"You expect it," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It's kind of sad to say in this game. It's so tough to do what he's doing and he makes it look easy. You just appreciate it so much from the outside, just watching him. We're just enjoying it because it's pretty awesome to see."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.