It was one of those games last night that got off to a rough start, and it looked for all the world that the lead in the American League East might be trimmed by another game.
But Big Papi would have none of that.
The Red Sox trailed from the top of the first until the last pitch of the game, But they emerged victorious, thanks to the bat of one David Ortiz. It was the second consecutive the night the Sox staged a big comeback. Big Papi had not hit a game-winning home run all season, and his last one was September 6th of last year.
Papi connected off of a 3-1 inside fastball from Al Reyes and sent it soaring into the Boston night sky. It looked like Delmon Young might catch it, but he turned the wrong way away from the ball, and it landed just inside the right field wall to give the Red Sox an important 5-4 win over Tampa Bay and keep their AL East lead at 5 games (as the Blue Jays went belly up yet again last night).
Papi also slammed a three-run shot in the third to cut a 4-0 deficit to one run. The Red Sox hit Edwin Jackson hard early, but too many of them were landing in Devil Ray mitts. The Sox were also up to their usual tricks of leaving runners in scoring position in the middle of the game, where a hit could have tied it or given them the lead.
The bullpen was superb in picking up a struggling Jon Lester, who gave up all four runs in the first. He had trouble with his command, and was pulled in the fourth. Julian Tavarez restored order, pitched three great innings, allowing only one walk. The rest of the pen allowed just one hit the rest of the way, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth and got his first win of 2007.
Big Papi became just the fourth Red Sox player ever to have five 30 home run seasons, as he hit HRs number 30 and 31. His RBI total is now at 104. The old Papi we know and love seems to be back, and at just the right time.
The Magic Number dropped another digit last night, and today we honor a man who, as a Red Sox player, seemed at times to only walk or strike out. But he will forever be remembered as the man who hit home runs in three consecutive postseason Red Sox wins, two of them clanking off the foul pole. Two of them were among the biggest homers in team history. He adorned the cover of Sports Illustrated for their 2004 World Series edition, seen here.
It's "Dinghonk" himself: Mark Bellhorn.