Ortiz ends his baseball season with a bang
TOKYO -- And on the last day he played baseball in 2004, 192 games dating back to spring training in February, David Ortiz hit a home run.
"Oh yeah, that was it,'' Ortiz said here Sunday, after his two-run home run in the fourth inning propelled a team of major-league all-stars to a 5-0 win over a Japanese all-star team in the final game of an eight-game series, won by the major leaguers, five games to three. "I'm done. Let's ride.''
Ortiz was not named the MVP of the tournament. That award was won by Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays, who doubled just ahead of Ortiz's home run, then hit a two-run home run in the fifth to back the pitching of San Diego Padres right-hander Jake Peavy, who held the Japanese to just two hits in six scoreless innings. Wells batted a team-best .407 in the tournament, with two home runs and seven RBIs.
But there was no question which big leaguer made the greatest impact during this 11-day excursion that took the teams to domes in five cities. Ortiz, who hit a game-tying two-run single in the first game to spare Roger Clemens defeat, captured the imagination here with a 514-foot home run the next night in the Tokyo Dome, then delivered a resounding coda yesterday with a drive over the left-center field wall off Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa. He just missed another home run in his last at-bat in the eighth, flying to the track in deep center.
When the game ended, a number of Japanese players sought out Ortiz for autographs, including mini-sized center-fielder Norihiro Akahoshi, who was a nuisance to the big leaguers throughout the series, stealing seven consecutive bases before finally being gunned down by Indians catcher Victor Martinez while attempting to steal third with his team five runs down in the eighth.
"Good luck to you, OK?'' Ortiz said, bowing to Akahoshi in the native style. "When you come to the States, come play with us.''
When Ortiz's words were translated for Akahoshi, he broke into a broad smile. "Please put in a good word for me,'' he said to a reporter from Boston.
There were no shortage of bon mots tossed Ortiz's way here. His last on-field act was to address the Tokyo Dome crowd, thanking them for the experience of his first visit here, which in its aftermath had more Japanese fans sporting Boston caps than were evident before he came. The Yankees, who have native star Hideki Matsui, may rule here, but there was no question that Ortiz gave the Sox a face here that is certain to endure.
"I knew he was a good hitter, but I didn't realize how good he was,'' said Bruce Bochy, the San Diego Padres manager who relied on his own ace, Peavy, to pitch the game that clinched the series for the major leaguers, who had won the first four games of this set, then lost three straight. "I've been throwing batting practice to him, and he reminds me of Barry Bonds in how late he can wait on the ball, and how well his ball carries. Like today, I thought that was just a fly ball when he first hit it, but it just kept going.
"He's one of the strongest guys in the game, and he's been fun to be around. He's a great guy in the clubhouse, the way he keeps everybody loose.''
Ortiz, who hit .300 (6 for 20) in the series, and Wells had two home runs apiece for the major leaguers, who outhomered Japan, 9 to 1 in the series. In all, Ortiz hit 55 home runs in 2004: 7 in spring training, 41 in the regular season, 5 in the postseason, and 2 here.
"He was unbelievable,'' said outfielder Moises Alou, a fellow Dominican who wound up playing more than he expected when Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez dropped off the tour after just three games, citing a tight hamstring. "After all he achieved during the season, then coming here and playing his butt off for another 10 days when he wasn't even done celebrating. To come here, and play the whole time, play the way he played and have a good time, you've got to respect that.''