- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- This was what Junichi Tazawa, Boston's Japanese reliever who got to see his first David Ortiz walk-off home run on his 27th birthday, might have called the Shinkansen of home runs. Bullet train.
The trajectory, said Jack McCormick, the former cop and Red Sox traveling secretary, reminded him of just that, a bullet.
"I saw the replay," he said. "It never elevated from home plate. Trajectory, look it up. That was a bullet."
It made hitting coach Greg Colbrunn think of something Tiger Woods might have hit.
"It stayed straight, and kept going like a golf ball," he said. "That ball was crushed. A lot of home runs that he hits keep going, like it goes into an extra gear. This one took on two or three extra gears, like a jet.
"God, a beautiful swing."
And the man who hit it? What did he see?
"Thinking about the beating waiting for me at the plate," said Ortiz, a Boston Bruins cap on his head and a designer leather backpack on his back, recalling the rowdy reception from teammates celebrating the 6-3 win over Texas fashioned by his three-run home run off Rangers left-hander Michael Kirkman. "You don't feel anything at the time, but you wake up, you're all beat up.
"That's good, though. That means you won the game."
The Red Sox won in a fashion to which they had become accustomed during the Prime of Big Papi, a walk-off hit by their designated hitter. It's something he has done now 16 times for the Red Sox, 19 in his career including Minnesota, The Early Years.
It was his 11th walk-off home run, just two shy of Jim Thome's major league record. Ten of those have come with the Red Sox, and don't include the two walk-off home runs he hit during the 2004 postseason.
But it has been almost four years -- Aug. 26, 2009 -- since his last one. Ortiz had an explanation for the interlude.
"They don't like to mess with Papi late in the game," he said. "They stopped doing that. That may have been the first time in a while I've got pitched to in that kind of situation, late in the game. I just keep patient."
The Rangers not only pitched to Ortiz, they dared him to beat them. Jonny Gomes had opened the ninth with a double, his fourth hit of the night, and Rangers manager Ron Washington elected to have Kirkman walk Dustin Pedroia intentionally.
"You don't wake a monster like that," Ortiz said.
Colorful analogy aside, Ortiz said he didn't question Washington's strategy -- walking the right-handed hitting Pedroia to get to him. Especially since the Rangers left-handers who had faced Ortiz in the game, starter Derek Holland and reliever Robbie Ross, had pitched him very tough, though Ross wound up walking him in the seventh.
"The lefties, they'd been pounding him in all night," Colbrunn said. "They were coming in there, but with pitches that also were cutting away. Kirkman, that four-seamer stayed pretty straight."
It remained straight -- and true -- off Ortiz's bat, landing in the visitors bullpen. It was, amazingly enough, the first time Ortiz has hit a home run in the 41 times he has come to the plate after an intentional walk.
The ball's journey of 385 feet took 3.94 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Info. It came off the bat at 110.3 mph, and reached an apex of 53 feet. There have been home runs that have travelled farther, faster, and at a lower trajectory, but no one, least of all Ortiz, paid the slightest bit of attention. Everybody was too busy celebrating taking two of three from the Rangers, who had rolled the Sox three straight times in Texas last month.
"David, so many times in his career, he's produced," manager John Farrell said. "We had a couple of opportunities [the Sox had baserunners in every inning] and we were finally able to cash in. Tazawa, who had worked a scoreless seventh, was watching on a clubhouse TV.
Birthday present? "Not bad at all," Tazawa said. "I go home with a good feeling. That's just Big Papi."
David Ortiz's walk-off HR bullet carried the Red Sox past the Rangers.