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Ortiz carries Red Sox to great escape

6/23/2014

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz had gone hitless in his first four at-bats Sunday against the Oakland A's with a strikeout, two weak ground outs and one pop fly.

Ortiz looked more like an imposter than one of baseball's most dangerous power hitters. But when he led off the top of the 10th inning of a 6-6 game, the real Ortiz returned, just as his manager and teammates expected.

Ortiz drilled a home run off A's left-hander Fernando Abad over the left-center field fence, putting the Red Sox ahead, and they held on for a 7-6 victory.

"Situations like that, he seems to come through all the time," Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli said. "He's our guy. He's our power guy, he's our hitter. We feed off him. When he goes, we go pretty good. He's huge in our lineup. The things he does are pretty amazing. Especially late in games. He's pretty special."

If not for Ortiz, the Red Sox's short postgame flight to Seattle would have seemed longer than a bus ride to Boston. They had blown a 6-1 lead, giving up three runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth when closer Koji Uehara gave up solo home runs to Stephen Vogt and John Jaso, snapping his streak of 31 straight saves.

Ortiz said he put his 0-for-4 start to the game behind him.

"You have to. It's not like you've got to go out there and try to get five hits in one at-bat," Ortiz said. "Whatever happened in the past happened, and you've just got to go up there with a fresh mind and try to do something different. It's not as easy as it sounds, but what can you do after you're 0-for-3 or 0-for-4 and you have another at-bat? You just go up there and fight."

Ortiz lined Abad's 1-0 pitch over the wall, and Uehara pitched a perfect 10th inning as the Red Sox escaped what could have been a nightmarish loss. The Red Sox salvaged the final game of their four-game series against Oakland after losing the first three.

"He does have the knack for the moment and more than anything he stays at rest or at peace mentally in those key spots and doesn't miss his pitch when he gets it," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Ortiz.

Ortiz hit a game-tying solo home run Wednesday against Minnesota, and Napoli followed with a walk-off shot in the Red Sox's 2-1 win. Ortiz has 10 career extra-inning home runs.

Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who allowed three runs over 7 2/3 innings, said he wasn't surprised by Ortiz's heroics.

"No. Never, never," Lester said. "I've seen it for a long time. That's David. Even when he's kind of off, he's struggling a little bit, he finds a way to pick us up."

Farrell said what made Ortiz's home run Sunday so special was the fact that he has been in a slump.

"I think given the fact he's been working through some things mechanically, it shows that he is human, and I just think it gives us greater appreciation for when those moments like this shine and when he comes through at such an opportune time," Farrell said.

Uehara had allowed only two earned runs in his previous 44 save opportunities, saving 42 of those games. He gave up two earned runs on two swings of the bat in the ninth inning Sunday. As he did Wednesday against Minnesota, when Uehara gave up a 10th-inning home run in a scoreless tie, Ortiz came to the closer's rescue.

"I was relieved and also I knew before that home run that I was going to go in as long as we got the lead, so I was getting myself prepared," Uehara said.

The Red Sox's slumbering offense woke up, racking up 13 hits, including solo home runs from David Ross, Napoli and Ortiz. Johnny Gomes ignited the attack with a two-run single with the bases loaded in the first inning and went 3-for-5 with a run scored.

"Given what's taken place the last three days, I really liked the way we came out and swung the bats early," Farrell said. "Despite the last three days, our guys are still fighting, they're still putting together as best and as tough of at-bats as they can. This was a hard-fought series. It's good to salvage one out of it."

Napoli went 2-for-4 with his eighth home run of the season and stole home in the third on the back end of an unplanned double steal. After Jonathan Herrera got caught leaning the wrong way by A's left-hander Tommy Milone with two outs, he darted for second. When A's first baseman Brandon Moss threw the ball to second baseman Nick Punto, Napoli headed home. Punto's throw was high, and Napoli slid under catcher Derek Norris' tag.

"I saw he got picked off," Napoli said. "I've got to try it. Usually in a rundown you're going to get somebody out. I don't know how I slid like that and avoided the tag. I came in there and did some ninja move to get under the tag."

Boston's greatest escape of the day was yet to come.