BOSTON — Sabermetricians, for the most part, don’t believe in the term “clutch.”
But if you were inside magical Fenway Park last night and you’re familiar with David Ortiz’s previous postseason work, then “clutch” is not imaginary. It’s as real as you, me and the Red Sox’ classic 6-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers last night in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
“(Ortiz’s) been one of the best postseason performers in the history of the game,” Ortiz’s former Minnesota Twins teammate Torii Hunter ironically said before yesterday’s game.
Little did Hunter — the Tigers right fielder — know that just hours later, Big Papi would add to his legendary status here in Boston.
With his Boston team on the verge of falling behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, Ortiz delivered a dramatic, gigantic, blistering game-tying grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning with the Sox down 5-1. It sailed into the bullpen and out of the reach of Hunter who fell right into the ‘pen going after it.
Ortiz truly is Boston’s Big Papi.
He’s the man who delivered when Boston was on the ropes in the 2004 American League Championship Series down 3-0 in that best-of-seven series to the New York Yankees. He delivered the walkoff homer in Game 4 of that series. He then delivered the walkoff RBI single in Game 5.
Here he is again — nine years later — at the ripe old age of 37 — and he’s still the same clutch Big Papi he was at 28.
The 2013 never-say-die Boston Red Sox — a team of destiny? — went on to win in the bottom of the ninth when Jarrod Saltalamacchia stroked a walkoff single.
It was Boston’s 12th postseason walkoff victory in franchise history.
This is exactly what the Red Sox needed to do. If you can’t beat the Tigers’ dominant starting rotation, then feast off their shaky, unpredictable bullpen. Ortiz took advantage and saved the Red Sox’ season. They would have been dead ducks if they had to head to Detroit down 2-0 with 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander on the mound tomorrow.
Hunter also said before the game: “I’ve always respected the way he carried himself day‑to‑day, always wanted to hit. That’s it. He didn’t care about his defense, forget that, ‘I just want to hit.’ And he was, I thought, was the best hitter in 2002 on our ballclub. And he missed six, seven weeks, and we non-tendered him and the Red Sox picked up a gold mine. I thought he was the best hitter on our ballclub with the Minnesota Twins. You guys found a diamond in the rough. And he’s been one of the best postseason performers in the history of the game.”
It’s very, very likely that Ortiz could return to Fenway Park years from now as an old man for a statue ceremony as Carl Yastrzemski did in September.
Ortiz is a two-time World Series champion with Boston and now has 15 postseason homers. He also entered last night batting .284 with a .392 on-base percentage, .533 slugging percentage and .925 OPS in 311 postseason plate appearances.
“I definitely think David Ortiz — everything, all his accomplishments, everything he’s done in this game is well deserved,” Hunter said. “I’ve seen him grow. I’ve seen him in hard times, with family issues. I was there. We’re like brothers. I love him. We’re enemies, but I love him to death, I’d do anything for him.”