BOSTON -- The stage was set. Everything was in place. It was if everything had been building to this moment.
The Red Sox began the bottom of the ninth trailing by three. Mookie Betts had homered. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts had reached base.
It was the perfect tableau for David Ortiz.
Surely, he would cap his final home opener by swatting a ball into the right-field seats, sending the Red Sox to a dramatic victory, as he's done so many times.
Wasn't it obvious?
It was to Betts.
"I can only speak for what went through my head,'' acknowledged Betts. "It was like fate-destiny thing. His last home opener. What a way to end it. I was fully confident in his ability to hit it out of the park, as well as [get] a base hit."
It seemed as if the whole day had been building to this. It began with a performance of the national anthem by Ortiz's 15-year-old daughter Alex, a nicely-orchestrated moment that caught Ortiz by surprise and filled him with emotion.
The Sox then traded punches back and forth with the Orioles -- up 3-0, down 5-3, tied 5-5, down 6-5, tied 6-6 -- before Baltimore took the lead in the top of the ninth, 9-6.
But no matter. Betts got the Sox a run back, and then Pedroia and Bogaerts did their part, as though each was a mere extra in this dramatic movie, unfolding right as scripted
Ortiz would come to the plate, select a pitch from Baltimore closer Zach Britton and drive it out of the ballpark.
Bedlam would ensue, Ortiz would take a leisurely jog around the bases and everyone -- save the Orioles -- would leave Fenway happy.
How many times had that happened? How natural a finish to the home opener would that seem?
But contrary to prevailing expectations, no, it is not that easy. Not even for the man who's been hailed as the greatest clutch hitter in franchise history. Just because he sometimes makes it look easy, it isn't.
And so, with anticipation soaring and expectations in place, Ortiz could only hit a sharp ground ball up the middle that second baseman Jonathan Schoop gloved with a diving effort, beginning a thoroughly anti-climactic double play.
So much for the perfect finish. You can't always get what you want, after all.
"What do you want me to tell you about it?'' Ortiz snapped when asked about the final at-bat. "I grounded out. Next question.''
There was an air of exasperation to Ortiz's voice. as if he was railing against the sense that his late-game heroics can be summoned on cue.
That's unfair, perhaps. Some others might engender hope, but Ortiz brings actual expectations. He had come through so many times before; why should this be any different?
But it wasn't to be.
Perhaps that should have been obvious by the way the game had played out to that point. David Price, making his first home start, was not himself, allowing a five-run inning in the third and handing over a 3-0 lead he had been presented.
In the ninth, Craig Kimbrel similarly stumbled, walking two batters and then allowing a moon shot to Chris Davis, marking the first time in his career that he given up three-run homer. Ever.
Still, Price and Kimbrel were new. They hadn't build up the sort of trust that Ortiz has earned over the previous 13 seasons. Price and Kimbrel are good, but they hadn't yet demonstrated the ability to rise to the occasion for Red Sox fans the way Ortiz has.
Ortiz would be different. He would, as he seemingly always has, found a way in The Big Moment.
The afternoon had played out perfectly, with the slugger perfectly positioned to kick off The Long Goodbye Tour with the perfect statement.
Instead, there was disappointment. The fan base has been spoiled so often that the bar sometimes gets set too high.
David Ortiz isn't Superman, after all.
Not every time, anyway.