There was country music playing on the loudspeakers at Fenway Park when David Ortiz emerged from the dugout to take batting practice Thursday afternoon.
Ortiz looked up at the control booth high above home plate and waved his arms. Within a few seconds, the hip-hop music he prefers came on.
About five hours later, Ortiz walked to the plate again. This time, with one swing, he made 35,353 people cheer.
The Texas Rangers challenged Ortiz to beat them and he did, driving a three-run home run to right field that gave the Red Sox a 6-3 victory.
“That’s why he is who he is,” said teammate Mike Napoli, who was on deck and had a feeling he wouldn’t be getting up. “There’s only one Big Papi. He’s the man in that situation.”
It was the 11th career walkoff home run for Ortiz, his 10th with the Red Sox. He has 12 with the Sox if you count the 2004 postseason, which certainly does count.
Texas sent lefthander Michael Kirkman out to start the ninth inning and Jonny Gomes doubled to the gap in left on the first pitch. Rangers manager Ron Washington intentionally walked the righthanded-hitting Dustin Pedroia to get to Ortiz, who hits lefthanded.
Ortiz was surprised he was given the opportunity. His last walkoff hit was in 2010.
“They don’t like to mess with Papi late in the game,” Ortiz said. “They stopped doing that . . . To have lefty against lefty, I don’t think there was anything wrong with that. That’s part of the game. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Kirkman had faced Ortiz Tuesday night and struck him out. He started Thursday’s at-bat with a sinker that was supposed to stay inside but came back over the plate.
“They were pounding me in all night. I kept on missing pitches but I was sticking with my plan,” Ortiz said.
The ball landed in the Texas bullpen. Ortiz watched it fly, sauntered around the bases, and lowered his shoulder as he approached a mob of joyous teammates.
“I was just thinking the beating that was waiting for me at the plate,” Ortiz said. “You don’t feel anything at the time but it happens the next day when you wake up. You’re all beat up. But it’s good. That means you won the game.”
It was the first time in 41 career at-bats following an intentional walk that Ortiz homered.
“I do know David’s come up in those situations many times throughout the course of his career. Today being, as far as we’re concerned this season, one of the more exciting ones,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
The Rangers swept three games from the Sox in Texas last month. At Fenway, the Sox took two of three from the team with the best record in the American League.
“This was a very good series to win,” said Farrell, whose team has five walkoff victories this season.
Jacoby Ellsbury was 4 for 5 with two doubles and two runs in his first game back after missing five games with a strained left groin. Ellsbury is 20 of 45 in his last 11 games, raising his batting average to .280.
“Obviously he’s not running at full speed. But the way he’s swinging the bat, he continued that,” Farrell said. “It’s really good to have him back in the lineup.”
Jose Iglesias was 1 for 1 with three walks and scored a run. He has hit safely in 10 consecutive games and reached base safely in 18 of the 19 games he has played this season.
Iglesias had walked six times in 149 major league plate appearances before Thursday, never more than once in a game.
Andrew Bailey (2-0) went an inning for the victory. Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Bailey combined for three scoreless innings.
Jon Lester allowed three runs in the first three innings. Jeff Baker had a two-run homer in the second inning and Adrian Beltre a solo shot in the third. Lester then held the Rangers down for three innings, giving the Sox a chance.
“I felt pretty good about it,” Lester said. “Obviously, they’re a pretty aggressive team and they swing the bats really well, a really good offense. Just early on, kind of played into their game a little too much.
“We didn’t change enough speed, missed over the middle of the plate a little bit, but kept them close enough to where our guys could strike.”
Down, 3-0, the Sox came back against tough Texas lefty Derek Holland. Pedroia had a two-run double in the third inning. Napoli drove in a run in the seventh to tie the game against the Texas bullpen.
Before Ortiz homered, the Sox were 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position and had stranded 10 runners.
Gomes, whose batting average had dropped to .173 before his big night, believes the Red Sox are building character that will serve them well in the months to come.
“I like this team,” he said. “How can you not?”