Ten Years Gone: David Ortiz walks off against the Angels in 2004 ALDS


Over twelve seasons in Boston, David Ortiz has compiled a resume of walk-off heroics unmatched in the game. The burly designated hitter has been so clutch that you expect him to come through, his list of big hits so long (he’s the all-time franchise leader in walk-off homers by a wide margin) that a thorough examination would take forever. The stages have been varied: from special deliveries in the midst of pennant races to iconic October moments that rate among Red Sox fans’ most unbelievable memories.

In the autumn of 2004, Ortiz set about building his legend. Ground was broken in Game Three of the 2004 ALDS against the Anaheim Angels.

The Schilling-Pedro combo had lived up to expectations in the first two contests, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 series lead over their AL West foes.

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Game Three got underway on a Friday in the yellow glow of the late afternoon at Fenway Park with Bronson Arroyo on the mound, but this one wouldn’t conclude until long after the Fenway light towers had clicked on and October darkness cloaked the region.

The Sox pounded Anaheim starter Kelvim Escobar for five runs and had a comfortable 6-1 lead in the seventh. And that’s when things unraveled.

Arroyo lost the first batter of the frame and was relieved by Terry Francona. Sidewinder Mike Myers came on and issued a walk. Mike Timlin was summoned, and the righty promptly yielded a single to David Eckstein to load the bases.

With the sacks jacked, Timlin couldn’t find the strike zone against Darin Erstad. Another run trotted home. That brought up Vlad the Impaler, he of the 39 home runs and 126 regular season RBI. Guerrero hammered a high fastball from Timlin into the Red Sox bullpen.


Even with the 2-0 series lead, New England fans headed to their medicine cabinets for antacid products. Keith Foulke and Alan Embree combined to keep the Angels grounded through the end of regulation, but the bullpen was almost certainly an advantage for the Angels. Francisco Rodriguez, their 22-year old stud reliever with the name “K-Rod,” logged two and 2/3 extremely effective innings. One wondered just how long things would remain locked in a stalemate.

The game, which commenced before many had gotten home from work, had stretched well past the rays of the autumn sun, past suppertime, and into the heart of the New England night.

Derek Lowe came on for the tenth, an act alone that should have given the Angels hope. The embattled starter, who finished at the bottom of the barrel among his peers in ERA during the regular season, yielded two baserunners but neither crossed the plate.

In the bottom of the frame, Johnny Damon singled. Damon was erased by Mark Bellhorn’s fielder’s choice, and Pokey Reese came on to run. Manny Ramirez whiffed. With two outs and Ortiz coming up, Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to Game One starter Jarrod Washburn. The lefty had been mugged by the Sox in the first game of the series, but he was a lefty nonetheless.

At 8:13 PM, Ortiz took a first pitch slider the other way, the ball swan diving over the Green Monster for an 8-6 walk-off victory. Big Papi raised his right fist triumphantly as he circled the bases, and, in what has become a familiar sight over the last decade, flipped the helmet from his head before charging into home plate to greet a mob of cheering teammates.

With the Angels out of the way, the Red Sox awaited vindication for the previous October in an ALCS matchup with the New York Yankees.

As dramatic as the moment had been, it was only the beginning.