Rays right fielder Delmon Young overran the ball, reaching the Pesky Pole before retracing his steps, but not in time as the ball fell in the first row.
"[The] wind was kind of crazy tonight, but it worked the right way," Ortiz said.
The win allowed the Red Sox to maintain their five-game lead over the Yankees, who beat the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, and put Boston's magic number to clinch the American League East title at 12.
"It's not just the walk-off, it's the situation we're facing right now," Ortiz said. "[The Yankees] have been playing really good, and you lose this game and then they win [Thursday], and it changes the whole thing. The way they've been playing, you want to be sure you win some games."
"That's the biggest thing, is keeping that five-game lead going into this next series and especially, the momentum," added winner Jonathan Papelbon (1-2), who pitched a perfect ninth. "With the last two, three weeks of the season left, this [win] is absolutely huge for our ballclub going into this stretch run."
It was the first time all season that Ortiz had the chance to make his traditional helmet toss rounding third base.
"It felt good," said the hero. "That means the game is over, and you have to make sure your teammates don't beat the crap out of you."
Not only was it the first walk-off homer of the season for Ortiz, Wednesday marked the first time the slugging designated hitter ended a game this season with a hit of any kind. It was also the first time Boston had a walk-off homer since current Rays first baseman Carlos Pena hit a solo homer to beat the White Sox, 3-2, on Sept. 4, 2006, at Fenway.
In the third inning, Ortiz launched a 97-mph fastball from Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson to the right-field bleachers for a three-run homer, his 30th of the season. The two long balls also gave him 104 RBIs, moving him two past the ill Mike Lowell for the team lead.
"It's that time of year and ... I think he's definitely one of the guys," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He had good swings all night. He lined out a couple of times, he hit the three-run homer, that was, up to that point, our only offense. And he was seeing the ball real well."
It is the fifth straight season Ortiz has belted at least 30 homers and driven in 100 runs. Only three other Red Sox have as many as five 30-homer seasons, including Ted Williams (eight), Manny Ramirez (six) and Jimmie Foxx (five).
|David Ortiz added another chapter to his clutch-hitting resume by belting a two-run walk-off homer vs. the Devil Rays on Wednesday night. Including the magical 2004 postseason, Ortiz has launched 10 walk-off homers since coming to the Red Sox in 2003.|
|Sept. 23, 2003||Kurt Ainsworth||10th||Sox 6, Orioles 5|
|April 4, 2004||Aquilino Lopez||12th||Sox 6, Jays 4|
|Oct. 8, 2004||Jarrod Washburn||10th||Sox 8, Angels 6|
|Oct. 17, 2004||Paul Quantrill||12th||Sox 6, Yanks 4|
|June 2, 2005||B.J. Ryan||9th||Sox 6, Orioles 4|
|Sept. 6, 2005||Scot Shields||9th||Sox 3, Angels 2|
|June 11, 2006||Akinori Otsuka||9th||Sox 5, Rangers 4|
|June 24, 2006||Tom Gordon||10th||Sox 5, Phillies 3|
|July 31, 2006||Fausto Carmona||9th||Sox 9, Indians 8|
|Sept. 12, 2007||Al Reyes||9th||Sox 5, Rays 4|
|With a three-run homer in the third inning, Big Papi reached 30 homers and 100 RBIs for the fifth consecutive season. The only other players in club history to equal that milestone at least five times are Ted Williams (8), Manny Ramirez (6) and Jimmie Foxx (5).|
Despite coming in with just four wins in 18 decisions this season, Jackson found a way to once again baffle the Red Sox, scattering eight hits and allowing just the three-run homer to Ortiz.
It was a painful night for starter Jon Lester, beginning with a walk to Akinori Iwamura to begin the game. Before the first inning was over, the lefty had thrown 32 pitches, allowed a two-run homer off the Pesky Pole in right to B.J. Upton and fallen behind, 4-0.
Those would be the only runs Lester would allow, but he made it through just 3 2/3 innings on 93 pitches, allowing eight hits while walking four and striking out five. Lester narrowly avoided losing for the first time since Aug. 8, 2006, at Kansas City.
Julian Tavarez eventually replaced Lester in the fourth with runners on the corners and two outs. Tavarez retired Brendan Harris on a fielder's choice, the first of eight straight to be set down before a one-out walk to Young in the seventh. Tavarez allowed just the one walk while striking out one in three hitless innings.
Jackson was effective all night with the exception of the third, when Julio Lugo opened with a single. Following a walk to Dustin Pedroia, Ortiz drilled a fastball from Jackson over the Rays bullpen to cut the deficit to 4-3.
"We have the makeup and the ballclub that you're going to have to get 27 outs with the lead to beat us, and that's a big thing for us now going into this series, kind of setting that statement that this ballgame ain't over until you get those 27 outs against us," Papelbon said.
There was a sense of foreshadowing for both the Red Sox and Young in the top half of the ninth. Pedroia made a diving stop on a sharp one-hopper from Young, who was thrown out when the Sox rookie got to his feet and made a good throw.
"I said that if he makes this play, dives and throws this guy out, that's going to be a big momentum shifter going into that last half of that inning, and sure enough it was," Papelbon said. "That's how this game works, momentum shifters."
The Red Sox played the game without Lowell, who was out with an intestinal ailment.