Peter Gammons gives his ideas on how to fix the dysfunction on the Red Sox.
BOSTON -- David Ortiz has spent his entire Red Sox career supplying dramatic moments. As he begins the final weekend of his last season, there are no apparent plans to change.
Why, after all, would you mess with success?
Ortiz supplied another booster shot for Fenway Park, lining a laser shot down the right field line for a tie-breaking, two-run homer in the Red Sox' 5-3 comeback win over Toronto.
"You expect it,'' marveled Dustin Pedroia, who has been Ortiz's teammate in Boston longer than any other current Red Sox player. "It's (strange) to say because it's so tough to do. But he makes it look easy.''
Ortiz has set such a ridiculously high standard that the shock happens when he doesn't come through, rather than when he does.
You expect it.
Like Tuesday night in New York, when Ortiz came to the plate in the ninth inning, with the Red Sox trailing by two and two runners on base. The expectation was that, of course Ortiz was going to belt a three-run homer to 1) beat the Yankees and 2) secure the division title.
When he didn't, when he went down swinging, it was, however unfairly, a letdown.
That's how good he is. That's how often he's come through in such situations.
Anything less than heroics is somehow a failing.
"I don't know that you could write a script any better than what David did tonight offensively,'' said John Farrell. "He turned this place upside down, given (where we were in) the game and what was needed. Almost a storybook night for David.''
Another in a long series.
What gets lost in the drama and clutch nature of his at-bats is the smarts he utilizes.
Ortiz was facing lefty Brett Cecil, whom Toronto manager John Gibbons had summoned expressly for Ortiz, who had limited Ortiz to a .194 (6-for-31) batting average in his career, including 10 strikeouts.
The two faced each other earlier this month in Toronto, and Ortiz, as he frequently does, was taking notes.
"I kept track of my at-bat with him,'' said Ortiz. "Last time I faced him, he started me off breaking ball, breaking ball, then finished me off hard. Cecil has that god breaking ball, and his fastball is 94 mph, so you can't pick both. You've got to give him something.''
Ortiz "gave'' Cecil the curveball, and got three in a row. But when Cecil fell behind 2-and-1, he had to throw a fastball and Ortiz was ready.
Two games remain in his last season and Ortiz has 38 homers. What, he was asked, would he think of hitting 40 homers in his age 40 season?
"Forty-forty-forty,'' chuckled Ortiz. "What can I tell you? It's a pretty good season. If it happens, it happens. And it's all gravy.''
Don't put it past him. The guy has a habit of doing remarkable things that you somehow expected him to do.
GOLD STAR: Solid night’s work from Ryan Spooner, who finished with the OT game-winning strike and was solid throughout the game as the de facto No. 1 center. He had four shots on net, six generated shot attempts and won 12-of-19 face offs as he continues to improve in that area while training camp rolls along. Spooner is trying to hold onto the No. 3 center spot in the lineup despite the addition of David Backes via free agency, and Friday night’s big boy performance with speed, playmaking and skill showed exactly what his potential can be when he puts it all together. It was also a nice little bounce-back from an up-and-down game on Wednesday night against the same Detroit team when he struggled in the face off circle and was part of a team-wide malaise.
BLACK EYE: It wasn’t necessarily a bad night for Brian Ferlin, but it was more of the invisible variety with just a registered hit and one face-off taken in 13 minutes of ice time. The forward earned some NHL time with the Bruins a couple of years, has battled concussion woes over the last year plus and is trying to push his way back into the crowded forward picture during this training camp. While he certainly showed some toughness and skill around the net a couple of years and didn’t seem shy about going there on Friday night, the results just weren’t there and Ferlin didn’t have much of a presence in the game. In general it was a pretty decent performance for the Bruins, so Ferlin’s game was quiet more than problematic.
TURNING POINT: Credit the Bruins coaching staff for switching up the lines in the third period, and that sparked the offense a bit after zero goals through the first 40 minutes against Detroit. Zach Senyshyn was moved with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash, and they became a threat in the third period before Heinen broke through for the game-tying goal from his knees. That score allowed the B’s to push things into overtime, and then Spooner made it a quick extra session by snapping home a shot from the slot after a good effort from Joe Morrow down low. It all was made possible by the adjustment to the lines that took place between the second and the third periods.
HONORABLE MENTION: Joe Morrow is battling to hold onto his NHL roster spot with the Bruins, and that is absolutely underscored by the news that Christian Ehrhoff is being brought to Boston on a PTO. So it was expected that the young D-man would come out with something a little extra after a mediocre performance in his preseason debut, and the left shot D-man was an impact player in the win for the Black and Gold. Morrow dropped the gloves with young tough guy Givani Smith in the second period as part of a B’s group that played with a little bit of an edge on Friday night, and then he won a battle down low in overtime to set up the Ryan Spooner game-winner. Morrow had two hits, two shot attempts, the assist and the fight in 19:48 of ice time, and showed that he’s ready to battle in camp to hold onto his spot.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of goals in two preseason games thus far for Danton Heinen, who scored important game-tying goals in both instances in the shootout loss to the Blue Jackets and Friday night’s overtime win against the Wings.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “The compete level, especially when he got down 4-0 [on Wednesday night], I don’t think it was high enough. So we talked about it, and we expect a better effort for sure.” –Ryan Spooner on Friday morning prior to going out and snatching the win away from the Red Wings in Detroit with an OT game-winner.