Heading into three straight nights in a National League park, John Farrell said he'd name his first baseman before each game. David Ortiz is 37, and coming off Achilles and heel injuries, and hasn't played three consecutive games in the field in years. Mike Napoli was raking through the first two rounds of the postseason. So Ortiz found himself in a position he hasn't been in since Minnesota: playing to stay in the lineup.
"David has got a long career that we all lean on," Farrell said when naming Ortiz his first baseman before Game 3, before warning "we'll go to it day to day." He needn't have qualified it. After a three-hit, two-run night, Ortiz is now 8-for-11 with four walks against the Cardinals, somehow bettering his career World Series average to an absurd .436.
But Ortiz's biggest contribution last night may have come between innings. After the fifth, with the game tied at 1, Ortiz gathered the Red Sox in the dugout for a speech. "David doesn't say things like that very often," said bench coach Torey Lovullo, "but when he does it stops you in your tracks."
"I told them to loosen up. I told them, 'Don't do anything more than you're capable, don't force things out,'" he said. ''I'm the veteran dude on this team, that's why I have to say something. I sensed everyone was feeling down, frustrated, like a sinking boat.''
There might have been more to it than that. Quintin Berry said Ortiz was "yelling and screaming." Jonny Gomes likened it to "24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher." Daniel Nava probably put it best:
"We weren't the Red Sox. We were the Boston Ortizes."
In the sixth, Pedroia singled with two outs. Ortiz worked a walk. Then the Cardinals brought in Seth Maness to face Jonny Gomes, who wasn't even scheduled to start until Shane Victorino was scratched during pregame warmups with tightness in his lower back.
Gomes, with Ortiz's words fresh in his memory, didn't force anything. He waited for his pitch. Maness served him five straight sinkers. The first three, he let go by. The fourth, low but over the plate, he fouled off.
The fifth was a mistake. Big and juicy and up, Gomes deposited it in the Red Sox bullpen. It was all the runs the Red Sox would need to tie the series at two games apiece.
"Right down the middle," Maness said. "That's baseball, it happens."
So maybe Ortiz's speech had nothing to do with it. Maybe the Red Sox would have broken out with or without his pep talk. But if they believe there was correlation and causation, who is determinism to say otherwise? Daniel Nava was asked for his immediate response to Ortiz's speech. "My reaction? That I don't want to let David Ortiz down."
Ortiz downplayed his role after the game. It was just a friendly reminder, he said, that this is the World Series, and you play your entire life to get here, so don't give up a single at-bat.
"Hey, remember, the World Series is not in months," he said. "It's about 10 days. You've got to bring your A game every day. It's like I told my teammates, you think you're going to come to the World Series every year, you're wrong. You know how many people we beat up to get to this level? A lot of good teams. That doesn't happen every year. It took me five years to get back on this stage . . . Take advantage of being here."
"Just one of those speeches that motivate players and bring you to reality," Ortiz added. "I will do it again tomorrow if I have to."