David Ortiz essentially stuffed the Angels’ spray charts into a paper shredder Saturday, beating an exaggerated infield shift by rolling an 11th-inning grounder through a vacated shortstop position for a run-scoring single to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 7-6 come-from-behind victory in Fenway Park.
It was the 14th walk-off hit in four Boston seasons for Ortiz, the king of late-game dramatics, and it came off Angels left-hander J.C. Romero, who tried to jam the left-handed hitter with several inside pitches before leaving a ball on the outer half that Ortiz guided through the infield with laser-like precision.
The Red Sox poured out of their dugout to mob Ortiz, a scene that is as familiar for the Fenway faithful as it is nauseating for the Angels, who have been victimized three times by Ortiz, the first coming when he hit a walk-off home run to clinch the 2004 American League division series.
And it left Angels reliever Scot Shields in tatters.
Romero gave up the game-winning hit, and Hector Carrasco took the loss, but it was Shields, the usually reliable setup man, who was charged with three runs in the eighth, blowing a 6-3 lead and preventing Jered Weaver from becoming the first rookie to win his first eight starts since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
“There are a couple of things that are really ticking me off right now,” Shields said, still steaming after the 3-hour 59-minute loss that dropped the Angels half a game behind Oakland in the AL West. “One, we lost a game we should have won. Two, I blew the game for Weaver. That’s hurting me pretty good right now.”
Weaver rose to the challenge of pitching on national television, in one of baseball’s most historic parks, and against one of the game’s most formidable lineups, working his way out of several jams to limit the Red Sox to three runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.
And when Curtis Pride, who replaced the ailing Vladimir Guerrero in the fifth inning, lined a Craig Hansen pitch to right for a two-run home run that gave the Angels a 5-3 lead in the seventh, Weaver, who was pulled with two out and the bases empty in the seventh, was in line for his record-tying win.
The Angels added an insurance run in the eighth on Juan Rivera’s double and Jose Molina’s RBI single, but neither Shields nor closer Francisco Rodriguez could nail down the final six outs.
Ortiz, who hit a walk-off homer off Shields last Sept. 6, led off the eighth with a prodigious blast to center, his major league-leading 35th home run. Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon singled and advanced on Shields’ wild pitch.
Shields struck out Jason Varitek, but Mike Lowell greeted Rodriguez with a flare to shallow right that hit the dirt in fair territory and bounced into the seats for a two-run, ground-rule double to tie the score, 6-6. It was Rodriguez’s third blown save, but Shields took the blame.
“I left a pitch over the plate to Ortiz, who hit it a long way, but I still had room to work with,” Shields said. “I didn’t get it done. That wild pitch came back to hurt us. There’s nothing else to say. I blew it.”
Rodriguez got out of a ninth-inning jam, getting Ramirez to bounce into a double play, but Ramirez, the left fielder who is not known for his defensive prowess, exacted revenge in the 11th, firing a one-hop throw to the plate to nail Mike Napoli, who was trying to score from second on Maicer Izturis’ one-out single.
“Nap got a great jump,” Manager Mike Scioscia said, defending third base coach Dino Ebel’s decision to send the runner. “It took a perfect throw to get him, and Manny made a perfect throw.”
One-out singles by Alex Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis sparked Boston’s 11th-inning rally. Mark Loretta struck out, but Ortiz, with second baseman Adam Kennedy in shallow right and shortstop Orlando Cabrera on the second-base side of the bag, stroked the grounder to left-center for the game-winner.
“I’m not second-guessing anything,” Scioscia said. “There are tendencies that show up in certain counts and situations with Ortiz, and we want to play those percentages. He managed to stay inside a pitch and punch it through a hole.”