ST. LOUIS - If David Ortiz can fire up an entire city, pumping up his team wouldn't prove too difficult.
The Boston Red Sox desperately needed an infusion of energy on Sunday, their hopes of a World Series championship becoming fainter by the minute as the St. Louis Cardinals took control of Game 4 early on.
So both on the field and in the dugout, Ortiz rallied the troops around him, a veteran leader determined not to let a golden opportunity to win one more championship slip by.
With the Red Sox batting .180 for the series and looking positively somnambulant in the middle innings, Ortiz gathered the Red Sox in the dugout after the fifth and gave them a pep talk.
"I noticed everybody downcast, frustrated over trying to get the offense started and nothing happening,'' Ortiz said. "So you come up with a couple of words to motivate the guys. Who better to do it than someone who's been here longer than anybody?''
The moment brought to mind Hunter Pence and the San Francisco Giants last postseason, but it wasn't just Ortiz's words that had an impact.
The Cardinals' lead stood at just 1-0 in the top of the fifth but felt much bigger, as starter Lance Lynn had faced the minimum 12 batters to that point, dispatching them in an economical 50 pitches.
Ortiz put a stop to that. He lashed a double to right-center, then broke into a number of exhortations pointing at the Red Sox dugout, which suddenly came alive.
"Any time this guy steps in the box, there's a presence,'' said Jonny Gomes, whose three-run homer in the sixth would be the difference in Boston's 4-2 win, which deadlocked the series 2-2.
"Any time this guy puts a uniform on, there's a presence. If this guy wants to rally us together for a pep talk, it was like 24 kindergarteners looking up at their teacher.'
They clearly paid attention.
A sacrifice fly by slumping Stephen Drew drove in Ortiz with the tying run in the fifth, and Gomes' blast put them ahead for good, guaranteeing the series would return to Fenway Park.
It was at that iconic venue where Ortiz delivered his famous speech on April 20, the day the Red Sox played their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings.
His words to the crowd - "This is our (expletive) city. And nobody's going to (take) our freedom. Stay strong!'' - lifted a region still reeling from the tragedy.
Coming off his ninth All-Star season, Ortiz produced the pivotal blow in the American League Championship Series, a grand slam in Game 2, but struggled the rest of the series against the Detroit Tigers.
They've clearly not shared their secrets with the Cardinals.
Ortiz brought a .625 batting average (5-for-8) into Sunday, then jacked it up to .727 by going 3-for-3 with a walk.
"I don't have another 10 years on me,'' said Ortiz, who turns 38 on Nov. 18. "I don't know when I'm going to be back in the World Series, so I have to give everything I have now.''
The Cardinals have been making every effort not to let Ortiz beat them, walking him in strategic situations, and this time it backfired.
With the game tied, two outs and a runner on first in the sixth, Lynn pitched around Ortiz and walked him on four pitches. Lynn was then replaced by the rookie Maness, and Gomes unloaded on him.
It's hard to find fault with the keep-away plan, though, because Ortiz has hurt the Cardinals every time they've come anywhere near his wheelhouse.
He homered in the first two games and barely missed a grand slam in the opener, sending right fielder Carlos Beltran crashing against the fence the haul in the deep drive.
"We've got to figure out a new game plan and execute our pitches,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We've got guys that can get him or any hitter out. But there's definitely times when it's a little more difficult, and he's locked in.''
Ortiz's five postseason home runs this year have set a Red Sox record, and the 17 in his career are tied with Jim Thome for seventh on the all-time list.
Manager John Farrell, who initially indicated he would likely bench his veteran DH for at least one of the three games at Busch Stadium, has instead resorted to playing Ortiz full time at first base, leaving Mike Napoli in a pinch-hitting role.
After their six-hit output Sunday, the Red Sox are still batting only .189 for the series. Without Ortiz's eight hits in 11 at-bats, they would be down to a puny .138.
"He's a tremendous hitter at any point in time in the year,'' Farrell said. "Playing first base has certainly not affected it in any way. He'll be back in there tomorrow at first.''
If he weren't, all of New England would turn on Farrell.
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