BOSTON (AP) — David Ortiz headed to the plate, ready to hit for the final time in the World Series. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina stood up, spoke softly to his pal and twice patted him on the side.
By that point, even the Cardinals were members of the Big Papi fan club. Ortiz walked off as the MVP after Boston won 6-1 Wednesday night in Game 6, capping a week in which he spurred the Red Sox with a mix of power, patience and a most timely pep talk.
"I know I'm one of the forces for this ballgame and I like to take things personal," he said. "And that's been my whole career, a challenge." "I wasn't trying to be the guy, but I know I got to get something done to keep the line moving," he said. "I don't even have to do anything today, I guess, the rest of the team took over."
Ortiz drew four walks and three of them were intentional, including the last one in the eighth inning after talking with Molina. Overall, Ortiz piled up totals that not even slow-pitch softball players dream about: He reached base a whopping 19 times in 25 plate appearances.
"Hey, let me tell you," he said. "I was hitting well, but it wasn't like I was hitting pitches right down the middle of the plate. They were trying their best to get me out." When the game ended, Ortiz hoisted reliever Koji Uehara over his shoulder. He then raised the gleaming gold trophy with one hand, the crowning achievement of his career.
Now a three-time champion, Ortiz is the last link to the Red Sox team that swept the Cardinals in 2004 and ended an 86-year title drought. The sellout crowd broke into thunderous chants of "MVP! MVP!" each time Ortiz batted. Quite a turnaround for the 37-year-old slugger who badly slumped in the AL championship series.
Ortiz hit 11 for 16 (.688) with two home runs and six RBIs against the Cardinals, and just missed a grand slam when Carlos Beltran robbed him by reaching over the short bullpen wall. Asked to describe Ortiz, manager John Farrell paused.
"Well, I'd probably rather let his bat do the talking, because it's pretty special," he said. Ortiz also drew eight walks and legged out a few infield hits, helped by St. Louis second baseman Matt Carpenter playing way out in shallow right field. At one point, Ortiz tied a Series record by reaching base in nine straight trips.
"He's as hot as anyone you're going to see this time of year," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We tried to make tough pitches in tough situations, tried to pitch around him at times." Ortiz's .760 on-base percentage and batting average were the second-highest in Series history, trailing only Billy Hatcher's marks of .800 and .750 in 1990 for Cincinnati.
"David has been unbelievable his whole career this time of the year. It's his time of the year. I've been on the wrong side of it a few times," winning pitcher John Lackey said. As Ortiz came up in the first inning, Molina and plate umpire Jim Joyce talked about him.
"This guy's unbelievable," Molina said on Fox audio. "He's fun to watch," Joyce said. Yet for all the impact he made swinging the bat in getting 11 of Boston's 41 hits — or just standing there and watching the Cardinals pitch around him — Ortiz made an equally important contribution with his words.
With St. Louis leading the Series 2-1 and the Red Sox scuffling in Game 4, Ortiz called his bearded band together for an impromptu huddle in the dugout. Ortiz said he merely told the guys to relax, stay loose and appreciate the moment. His teammates told a different story after Boston rallied to win.
"It was like 24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher. He got everyone's attention and we looked him right in the eyes," said Jonny Gomes, who answered with a winning home run. "That message was pretty powerful."
That's also what the Red Sox expect from their Dominican-born thumper, known for his neatly tailored suits and dazzling diamond jewelry. Whatever the Red Sox need, and whenever they need it, he's ready. When the Series shifted to St. Louis and there was no designated hitter, he adeptly moved from the DH spot to first base.
He did the same thing way back in the 2004 Series, and again in 2007 when the Red Sox swept Colorado. As the Red Sox celebrated on the field after the final out, Ortiz considered what it meant to win a third title. Easy, he answered.
"That means I'm getting old," he said.