On Monday, at long last, Big Papi delivered.
Ortiz homered and drove in four runs as the defending World Series champions ended their 10-game losing streak, rallying from a five-run deficit to defeat the Atlanta Braves 8-6.
“It’s been too long since we last shook hands following a win,” manager John Farrell.
Farrell called it “a total team win,” then pointed to the two powerful bats in the middle of the lineup — Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.
“In 10 games prior to today, there was one RBI combined,” he said. “That’s not to put it all on them, but they being in the middle of the lineup, their contributions are key to us.”
Pedroia hit a two-run single before Ortiz tied the game with a three-run homer off Ervin Santana in the fifth inning.
With Red Sox fans at Turner Field chanting “Papi! Papi!” Ortiz then gave Boston the lead with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Ian Thomas (1-2) in the seventh.
“It seems like every big situation we need him, he came through for us,” Pedroia said of Ortiz, the World Series MVP last October.
Ortiz hit only .118 with no RBIs in Boston’s longest losing streak in 20 years, but that didn’t dim his star appeal to Red Sox Nation South. The roar following Ortiz’s homer startled A.J. Pierzynski, who was waiting on deck.
“When David hit that homer, that was probably the loudest cheer as a visitor I’ve ever heard, especially since I was on deck and sort of got the full force of it,” Pierzynski said.
“It was one of the loudest moments I can remember in any stadium.”
The Red Sox trailed 6-1 after the fourth, with starter Clay Buchholz walking a career-high eight in only three-plus innings.
Buchholz has a 7.02 ERA after allowing six runs, and Farrell said “there’s no determination” about the right-hander making his next start.
“It seems to be snowballing on me right now,” Buchholz said, adding he had confidence during his pregame work in the bullpen.
Buchholz matched his season high of three walks in the second inning and added three walks in the Braves’ three-run third. Justin Upton had a two-run double and Gerald Laird had a run-scoring single off Buchholz’s left foot.
Buchholz didn’t get out of Atlanta’s three-run fourth. Heyward walked and scored on B.J. Upton’s double, and Justin Upton and Simmons added RBI singles.
Despite the poor start by Buchholz, the Red Sox came back to end their worst skid since an 11-game slide in 1994. The losing streak was the longest for a defending World Series champion since the depleted 1998 Marlins had two 11-game skids.
Justin Upton drove in three runs with two hits for Atlanta.
Edward Mujica (2-1) got the win with a scoreless sixth inning following a 1½-hour rain delay.
Chris Johnson singled with one out in the ninth before Koji Uehara capped his 10th save with Andrelton Simmons’ game-ending double-play grounder. Uehara was Boston’s seventh pitcher.
As Boston’s early deficit grew, the frustration from its players became more obvious. After his groundout in the fourth, Pedroia stalked around the dugout, shouting in anger before slamming his hand on the bench. He seemed to be upset about a ball-strike call earlier in the at-bat.
Santana couldn’t hold a 6-1 lead in his third straight start in which he allowed at least five earned runs. He gave up five runs on six hits and three walks in five innings.
“I was a little bit off and that’s how it is,” Santana said. “It was two-out walks. That’s the main issue right now. We have to correct that and we’re good going forward.”
Following the rain delay, Thomas walked two batters following an infield hit by Brock Holt, loading the bases. Ortiz drove in Holt with a fly ball to right field, giving Boston a 7-6 lead. Pierzynski’s single up the middle pushed the lead to two runs.
Jason Heyward led off the eighth with a single to center field off Andrew Miller but slid past second base trying for a double. He was tagged out by Pedroia while reaching back for the bag.
Braves Bits: The crowd was a sellout of 48,501. Most fans remained during the rain delay. ... Buchholz singled in the second inning for his second hit in the majors. ... Holt had two hits and scored twice. ... The Red Sox recalled C-1B Ryan Lavarnway from Triple-A Pawtucket and optioned RHP Alex Wilson to Pawtucket. Lavarnway had a pinch-hit groundout in the seventh. ... Ortiz made his first start of the season at first base. The team placed 1B Mike Napoli (sprained finger) on the 15-day DL on Sunday. ... Braves LHP Jonny Venters, trying to return from his second Tommy John surgery, had more discomfort throwing from the mound before the game. ... Braves RHP Aaron Harang will face Red Sox LHP Jon Lester on Tuesday night.