When Mark Loretta arrived at first base in the bottom of the 12th inning, drawing a walk from Phillies righthander Clay Condrey with Kevin Youkilis already on second and the score tied, he was queried by first base umpire Ron Kulpa.
Do you walk him?
Him, of course, being David Ortiz. It would have meant pushing Youkilis, the winning run, to third. It would have meant facing Manny Ramírez with the bases loaded and two out. It didn't matter in the end, as Philadelphia pitched (again) to Ortiz, and Ortiz (again) got the hit, a single that scored Youkilis to cap an epic 4-hour-59-minute matinee that ended 8-7, the Red Sox' ninth straight win and the first of Craig Hansen's major league career.
``If you have Manny behind him and you don't have enough bases to put them both on base, I don't know what you do," Gabe Kapler said. ``It's scary at this point. It's very similar to how [Barry] Bonds was a couple of years ago. His presence at the plate is unreal."
A mob of teammates was ready to burst out of the dugout once Ortiz performed his expected heroics after the game already had seemed lost a half-inning before. On Saturday, in the 10th inning, Ortiz rocketed a walkoff two-run homer to center. This time it was a single, a breaking ball lofted onto the grass in front of the warning track in left-center and just out of Aaron Rowand's reach.
``He's unbelievable," said Coco Crisp, who opened the bottom of the 12th with a ground-rule double. ``You know he's going to come through. [We were] just waiting to jump over the little thing at the dugout to go greet him at first . . . The feeling of him up there is that he's going to come through."
But he hadn't in two previous chances to win the game and let the 36,459 who had skipped work for this rescheduled game go home. Ortiz arrived at the plate to lead off the ninth and a groundout to second was the result. He arrived at the plate again with one out and Loretta on second in the 11th, though with the Phillies intentionally walking him, there was not much he could do.
``You have to, you definitely have to," Ortiz said of staying focused amid the raucous crowd. ``Otherwise you will not concentrate on whatever you want to do out there."
Which was end a game that had teetered in the 12th.
Shane Victorino led off the top of the inning with a single up the middle against Manny Delcarmen and, after he was bunted to second, Hansen was summoned from the bullpen. A groundout by Chris Coste moved Victorino to third, and a double to left-center by Jimmy Rollins gave the Phillies a 7-6 lead over a team that hadn't lost since June 15 at Minnesota.
The home half of the 12th started with the struggling Crisp muscling an outside pitch down the left-field line for a ground-rule double. After outs from Jason Varitek and Alex Gonzalez, Youkilis singled over the outstretched glove of shortstop Rollins, taking second when Victorino bobbled the ball in left and threw home in a futile attempt to prevent Crisp from scoring the tying run. After the walk to Loretta, Ortiz plated Youklis with his second straight game-ending hit and third in his last eight home games.
``It's starting to become normal to us, but what he does, it's the most amazing thing in baseball," Youkilis said. ``His numbers might not be showing up that high. [But] he's one of the clutchest hitters to ever play this game."
This one, though, appeared over long before.
Jonathan Papelbon, who had gotten the last out of the eighth, opened the ninth against Chase Utley, the second baseman who had 13 home runs to start the afternoon.
He soon had 14, sending a 96-mile-per-hour fastball off the Pesky Pole to tie the score at 6-6.
Papelbon recovered, laboring through 33 pitches to finish the inning. But the save was blown. The score was tied. The crowd would have to wait.
It seemed over before that, too, in the sixth. With starter Tim Wakefield in command, the Sox exploded for their second six-run inning behind him in less than a week. It had been scoreless at that point, a duel between Wakefield and Cory Lidle, both pushed back from their starts Sunday because of the rainout. And, after that sixth inning, in which six players each had a single RBI, it appeared the Sox were in control.
Wakefield lost his feel for his knuckleball upon returning to the mound. Wakefield was replaced after a single, hit batter, and walk, at which point Rudy Seanez took over and allowed all three inherited runners to cross the plate, plus two of his own.
``I mean, you've got a 6-0 lead and you feel pretty good about yourself," manager Terry Francona said. ``And all of a sudden you're kind of fighting for your baseball life. Then you get behind, even when you're at home, getting behind in extra innings, if someone makes an out you go home. But the guys keep playing."
Because, if the Red Sox can just get back around to Ortiz, it seems they always have a chance.
A WALKOFF WONDER: Check out www.boston.com/redsox for a photo gallery documenting each of David Ortiz's walkoff hits as a member of the Red Sox.