MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Papi out to cap career with one more ring

Papi out to cap career with one more ring

BOSTON -- Whenever his final season ends, and David Ortiz hopes that won't be until the leaves turn in New England to hues of red and gold, the hope is that it will be punctuated with his fourth Red Sox World Series ring.

It's the way John Elway and Peyton Manning went out in the National Football League with the Broncos, Manning just this past January, with Super Bowl titles.

"Why not?" Ortiz said on Thursday night after the Red Sox scored five times in the ninth at Fenway Park to come from behind and defeat the Yankees, 7-5, the last three runs scoring on a walk-off Hanley Ramirez home run. "Of course, it would be great. It's what we call, happy ending."

Hanley's walk-off home run

There are 16 regular-season games left to play and the Red Sox have to win another American League East title or at the least one of the league's two AL Wild Card spots.

For Ortiz, there will be a last road trip, his career away from the Fens ending on Sept. 29 in of all places at Yankee Stadium. Then a final home series against the Blue Jays. Papi's last regular-season game in Boston is Oct. 2, when everything could be decided.

There's plenty of innings still to play.

The reaction in New York still remains to be seen. Ortiz has simply demolished the Yankees. His eighth-inning homer on Thursday night off Adam Warren was the 53rd against the Yankees, and pushed him past Mickey Mantle into sole possession of 17th place on the all-time list with 537.

The Yanks have said there will be a special pregame ceremony to mark Big Papi's final night playing the Bronx. It will be dramatic to see how Yankees fans react.

"I don't know what the reaction is going to be," Ortiz said. "It'll be interesting. But no matter what, man, I'm going to enjoy it."

Papi is going out with flare. His slash line this season is a gaudy .317/.402/.629. He has 34 homers and 117 RBIs. Not bad for a 40-year-old.

Ortiz's single up the middle off Dellin Betances drove in the first run of the ninth and just kept the rally going, giving him 168 of his 1,754 RBIs against the Yankees. Big games. Big game player.

"I've played all these years against them," Ortiz said. "It's accountability. Is that what you call it?"

Mookie Betts followed with another RBI single, setting up Ramirez's towering blast into the left side of the center-field bleachers.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who played with Ortiz on Boston's 2007 and '13 World Series-winning teams before signing as a free agent with the Yankees, watched the Ramirez ball fly into the stands and simply trotted off the field.

Ortiz was whooping it up by the Red Sox dugout. It was another magical moment in a 20-year-career -- the last 14 with the Red Sox -- that portends for a few more to come.

"Our games with the Yankees are incredible games," said Ortiz, also an important cog on the 2004 team that came back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees in the AL Championship Series and then swept the Cardinals in the World Series.

It was Boston's first World Series win since 1918, when Babe Ruth still pitched for the team.

"Coming from behind against a guy like Betances is huge," Ortiz added. "Betances is super nasty. He's got some of the best stuff in the game. It's big. It's pretty big."

The Yankees haven't played the Red Sox in the postseason since that fateful 2004 fall campaign. The Yankees won the 2003 ALCS against Boston on Aaron Boone's Game 7, 11th-inning walk-off at Yankee Stadium.

There have been big regular-season games here since then, perhaps none bigger for the Red Sox than Thursday night.

"I tell you guys, the rivalry hasn't died," Ortiz said. "Just the hitting and all the stuff back in the day. It's still competition. Whoever brings the best to the table is the one that's going to win."

Ortiz knows better than anyone that the days and the innings are dwindling. He looked up at the television monitors in the clubhouse after all the heroics and noted the standings. It's a four-way dogfight that includes his club, the Blue Jays, Orioles and Yankees. The Red Sox are clinging to first place. Even with the Yanks vanquished so suddenly, still only five games separate the four teams.

Ortiz is not going to move up any further on the all-time homer list. Mike Schmidt is next in 16th place with 548. Ortiz knows that's not going to happen. What he does know is that another World Series ring could happen.

The personal goals, at this point, no longer matter.

"I'm not really focused on that, on any of the personal numbers," he said. "It's great to be part of the history, but right now I'm not focusing on that. It's just about winning. We need to win right now. We need to do whatever it takes to win, because the race right now is very close. Look at the standings up there on the TV. Every win matters right now."

There are 16 more games to go and who knows what in the waning career of Ortiz to come.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.