The slugger hit his 50th homer Wednesday night to match a Red Sox record, but the man they call "Big Papi" wasn't in his usual jovial mood after the Minnesota Twins beat Boston 8-2 and clinched the AL East for the New York Yankees.
"Right now we need to finish the season," Ortiz said in a voice barely above a whisper. "We're having a tough time at this point of the season and it's crazy how things are going. I just told everybody we've got to keep on playing."
New York leads Boston by 11 games with 10 to play. The Yankees have won the division every year since 1998, but Boston still has to fight off Toronto to hold onto its traditional spot as division runner-up; the Blue Jays trail the Red Sox by one game after beating the Yankees 3-2.
"It ended the way it was supposed to end. They played a lot better than us over the course of the season," said Red Sox starter Curt Schilling, who returned from a three-week layoff but lasted just five innings and did not get a decision. "I don't think we opened the door for them as much as they kicked it in."
The Twins, who have won 10 of their last 12, remained a half-game behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central after the Tigers beat the White Sox 6-2. Minnesota leads Chicago by 5½ games in the wild-card race.
"We're inching closer, but there's still a long way to go," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's all about getting back into the playoffs."
Boof Bonser (6-5) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings, striking out five to win his third consecutive decision. Michael Cuddyer had three of Minnesota's 16 hits and scored two runs.
Ortiz tied Jimmie Foxx's 1938 franchise record with a solo shot that gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead after six. But Cuddyer led off the eighth with a double, Justin Morneau walked and Torii Hunter hit the first pitch he saw from Craig Hansen (2-2) over the Green Monster seats to make it 4-2.
Rondell White doubled to chase Hansen, who faced four batters and did not record an out. Pinch-runner Lew Ford scored on a fielder's choice to make it 5-2 before the Twins finally ran themselves out of the inning with a groundout to first that started a 3-6-2-5-6 double play.
Foxx's record seemed within easy range for Ortiz before he missed eight games with heart palpitations. He has only three homers and nine RBI since returning on Sept. 8, but he laced Bonser's first pitch over the Boston bullpen and circled the bases to the strains of "Simply the Best."
His teammates applauded from the top of the dugout, and fans continued to cheer until he came back out of the dugout to tip his cap.
"You're talking about a franchise that's been around for a long time and has had some of the greatest hitters who have ever played," Schilling said. "And he has a chance to do something that's never been done in this uniform."
Some of the Twins were almost as happy for their former teammate; Ortiz played for Minnesota until he was released after the 2002 season.
"When he first hit it, I was pretty upset. But then I thought about it: That's my roommate, my role model, my buddy," said Hunter, who had lunch with Ortiz before the series and could tell the Red Sox slugger was looking forward to No. 50. "I hope he gets to 60 in the last 10 or 11 games -- but not against us."
It was Ortiz's 43rd homer as a DH this year, tying the record he set last year.
Schilling needed 104 pitches to get through five innings in his return after missing three starts with a strained side muscle. He allowed one run and seven hits while striking out three. He has not won in six starts since Aug 4.
Morneau, who went 5-for-5 on Tuesday, was 1-for-4 with an RBI single in the ninth that made it 6-2. Hunter followed with an RBI groundout, and Ford's RBI single made it 8-2.
- Ortiz has homered against every team Boston has played this year.
- Hunter was back in the lineup after fouling a ball off his left leg on Tuesday night.
- Morneau needs one RBI to tie Harmon Killebrew (1962) for second on the team's single season list with 126. Killebrew also owns the club record with 140 in 1961.
- Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis was out of the lineup because of neck spasms. He left Tuesday night's game with a neck strain. He is expected to miss "a couple of games," manager Terry Francona said.
- OF Manny Ramirez had an MRI on his right knee that was negative. He has missed the last nine games.