David Ortiz stood on second base and looked outward toward the 379-foot marker in center field where his RBI double just landed, the Fenway Park crowd showering the Red Sox’ beloved designated hitter with a roaring standing ovation.
On a night when the Red Sox hit eight home runs and accumulated 19 hits in a 20-4 victory against the Detroit Tigers, it was Ortiz’s double that drew the greatest acknowledgment.
It was louder than the ovation Will Middlebrooks received earlier in the sixth inning for clubbing a grand slam over the Green Monster, louder than the ovation Daniel Nava received after hitting a two-run home run that followed Ortiz’s double.
The hit, the 2,000th of Ortiz’s career, extended his fabled chapter in Red Sox history, one highlighted by walkoff playoff heroics and a pair of World Series titles.
Yet Ortiz stood on second base with a solemn look, seemingly humbled by the crowd’s reaction as he waved his helmet in salute.
“To be honest with you, I just always try to come in and try to do something to win a ballgame,” Ortiz said. “In my case, I always get caught offguard when it comes down to personal numbers. It surprises me, because I’m not keeping track of things. I come to the field with my mind focused on the next game.
“It’s great getting to that milestone and accomplished numbers, that at some point, when you’re not playing baseball, you look at them and thank God for giving you a nice career.”
Ortiz, who finished 3 for 5 with four RBIs, hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to get to hit No. 1,999.
In the seventh, Ortiz homered again, sending Jeremy Bonderman’s 3-1 fastball into the bullpen — a two-run shot that gave the Sox an 18-4 lead.
As Detroit manager Jim Leyland came to the mound to make a pitching change, the crowd erupted in more cheers of “Papi, Papi, Papi,” prompting the slugger to emerge at the top step of the dugout for a curtain call.
It was the 41st multi-home run game in Ortiz’s career, his 39th with the Sox, a team record, and his 426th and 427th career home runs, which tied Mike Piazza for 46th all-time.
“My life, I’ve been built up around this organization, this city, and these fans,” Ortiz said. “The best thing that ever happened to me was to come play in Boston.
“These fans here, you see how everybody wants to go and play at their field because they know the crowd is going to be there, but these fans support this ballclub better than anybody I’ve ever seen. Getting this done at home was one of those things you will never forget about.”
At the end of last season, Ortiz signed a two-year, $26 million deal to return to Boston, and manager John Farrell never doubted Ortiz’s ability to produce, even at age 37.
His biggest concern was the designated hitter’s health, but Ortiz has played in 116 of 141 games this season, and Farrell said he could not imagine playing without him.
“What he’s meant to this organization, this city, being involved with two World Series already, the fixture that he’s been for a number of years in the middle of the lineup,” Farrell said. “I think more than anything, it was a matter of health. Not production or projection of what this year would have been. It was a matter of him getting healthy and obviously he has.”
But perhaps the greatest benefit of having Ortiz around is the veteran leadership he brings to the clubhouse, one that has helped younger players such as Middlebrooks improve on a daily basis.
“He’s a really good role model,” said Middlebrooks, who finished 3 for 5 with four RBIs. “He takes all the young guys under his wing, and he treats us like we have 10 years in the big leagues. So it’s a lot of fun. He has helped me out a lot.”
Boston has won nine of the last 12. After losing to Detroit, 3-0, on Labor Day, and sneaking out a 2-1 victory Tuesday night, Wednesday night’s offensive outburst was exactly what the team needed as it bears down for the postseason run.
“This is the best time for this to happen,” Ortiz said. “We’re in September already. We have a little bit of a lack of offense. We need that one game to kind of wake you up, and I think this is it.”