BOSTON -- An inch or two were all that separated David Ortiz from a night for the ages. An inch or two more, and Ortiz would have spent another day as the most popular man in Massachusetts.
Instead he settled for a mere standout performance on a banner Wednesday night for the Red Sox in Game 1. Though that missing inch or two allowed Carlos Beltran to rob him of a grand slam in the second inning, he later hit a two-run homer in Boston's 8-1 rout of St. Louis, finishing 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
"I just made sure I hit it a little farther," Ortiz said of his home run, "where nobody could jump over and catch it."
Imagine for a moment that Ortiz's first blast did travel just an inch or two farther, sailing into the bullpen instead of Beltran's glove, where it resulted in a sacrifice fly. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright admitted "the game could have spun out of control there," knowing that a homer would have given the Sox an early eight-run margin.
As it was, Beltran ranged back and thrust his glove over the torso-high wall, slamming his body into the fence and bruising his right ribcage. (He was taken to a local hospital for X-rays, which came back negative.)
Asked if he thought the ball was going over the wall, Ortiz did not hesitate.
"Of course," he said.
So one thing on this night did not go his way. But this is Ortiz, and this is October, so it seemed only fitting that he went deep five innings later, icing Boston's victory. It was the first home run that reliever Kevin Siegrist allowed to a left-handed hitter all season, and it earned Ortiz a curtain call from the sold-out Fenway Park crowd.
"David lives for these moments," teammate Shane Victorino said. "I saw it all year long from this guy. Being here for the first time, watching him play -- I've always been a fan from the other side, but finally getting a chance to watch him from this side, be his teammate -- he's a special player. He's amazing. He's great. It doesn't shock me what he did tonight. It shouldn't shock any of us how good this guy is in the postseason, especially in these kinds of moments."
It's not as though Ortiz needed to do much this month to cement his October resume. Already a two-time World Series champion and former American League Championship Series MVP, he entered the night with a reputation as one of the greatest clutch hitters of all time. Climbing up the all-time leaderboards, he ranks in the top 10 in postseason home runs, doubles, walks, total bases, RBIs and runs scored.
Now he is working on fine-tuning his legacy. Wednesday's home run was his 16th in postseason play, matching Beltran for eighth on MLB's career list. His three RBIs gave him 57, good for fifth all-time. If he hits one more home run this month, he will match the franchise postseason record, five, that he already shares with Todd Walker.
Manager John Farrell noted that Ortiz is the one person in the clubhouse who has "linked everyone together," the only remaining player from Boston's 2004 World Series championship roster.
And if he continues performing the way he did in Game 1, Ortiz will simply add another title to his resume -- something he'll take over a would-be grand slam any day.
"The guy just has the knack for big situations," Victorino said. "We feed off of that, too. He provides that energy. He's like that daddy figure that you go out and watch every night and say, 'How does he keep doing it?' He's done it all his career. People that question that, you sit there and say, 'No, he's that good.'"
Added catcher David Ross: "He showed why we call him 'Cooperstown.'"