Michael Kirkman was the Lone Ranger on Thursday night.
Stranded on the mound, asked to walk Dustin Pedroia to pitch to David Ortiz, he asked Ron Washington: “Skip, what are we doing here?”
To which Washington replied: “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”
And so it was that, having already surrendered a leadoff double to Jonny Gomes, Michael Kirkman stood on the mound facing David Ortiz with no one out and the winning run at second in the bottom of the ninth. Papi could have slapped a single to bring in Gomes and win the ballgame, but after the slight of the Rangers choosing to pitch to him, Papi needed to have his revenge. And it looked like this.
Kirkman’s first pitch to Ortiz was a fastball low and inside that quickly became a fastball very high and very far away. Ortiz turned on it, and yanked it on a line to right with such ferocity that Nelson Cruz had barely began to sprint backwards before it cleared the bullpen wall. Ortiz, knowing he’d won the game, just stood at home plate for a few second with fire lingering in his eyes, knowing that the Rangers would never, ever make the mistake of opting to pitch to him again.
The most amazing thing about Ortiz’ home run was that he just willed it to happen. He was obviously so steamed about the walk – apparently the Rangers didn’t think he could hit a lefty – he wanted to make them pay more than anything. And there is little more satisfying than taking the very first pitch and hitting it so hard that the baseball nearly breaks down in tears. That home run was a statement, and a very loud one at that. The Sox and the Rangers are now quasi-tied for the best record in the AL (Texas, at 36-23 to the Sox 37-24, has a higher winning percentage but is no games ahead of the Sox).