"That's why I hit mine 500 feet," Ortiz said. "Then I don't have to deal with that."
Cabrera made a leaping catch in the eighth inning, and the New York Yankees edged Boston 2-1 behind a strong start from Chien-Ming Wang. Ortiz's third-inning homer accounted for the only run for the Red Sox.
The Yankees' left fielder by necessity not choice, Cabrera went to the wall and brought back Ramirez's drive for the final out of the eighth. The catch was so good, it had center fielder Johnny Damon jumping and pumping his fist in celebration.
Cabrera, whose early experience in left field filling in for injured Hideki Matsui was not always pretty, called this the best catch of his life. Speaking through an interpreter, he said, "I was aware of the score and I followed the flight of the ball. I knew I had it all the way."
He might have been the only one.
Boston manager Terry Francona called the catch "devastating."
"I knew it was going to be close," he said. "It was a pretty big play at a pretty big time of the game."
On his way out to left field, Ramirez passed Cabrera. "He said, 'You should let that ball go out,' " Cabrera recalled. "I said, 'I'm trying to win.' "
Wang (6-2) and Boston rookie David Pauley (0-1) dueled on even terms into the seventh inning with Ortiz and New York's Bernie Williams accounting for the only runs with homers. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Miguel Cairo sent a squibber under the glove of Pauley and past second baseman Mark Loretta for a single.
"If I come up with that, we get out of the inning and it's 1-1," Pauley said. "I just didn't get my glove down far enough. It was a matter of inches."
Damon followed with a single and Cabrera walked on four pitches, chasing Pauley. With no left-hander in his bullpen, Francona brought in right-hander Rudy Seanez, and left-handed swinging Jason Giambi walked on a 3-2 pitch, forcing home the go-ahead run.
Then came Cabrera's clutch catch at the 399-foot sign in left-center as he leaped to rob Ramirez of a homer off Kyle Farnsworth. The rookie tumbled to the ground with the ball for the third out as a smiling Ramirez watched in disbelief and mouthed, "Wow!" Cabrera got a warm greeting from Farnsworth as he returned to the dugout and came out for a curtain call.
The first-place Yankees (35-22) have won the first two meetings of a four-game series, both without ailing captain Derek Jeter (bruised right thumb), to move 1˝ games in front of Boston in the AL East. They won for the ninth time in 11 games overall and moved a season-high 13 games above .500.
Mariano Rivera worked a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 13 chances. His 391st save moved him ahead of Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley into sole possession of fourth place on the career list.
The Red Sox took the lead in the third inning when Ortiz hit his 17th home run. With the Yankees playing an exaggerated shift to the right side, Ortiz pulled a 1-0 pitch from Wang off the facing of the upper deck in right field.
Ortiz routinely hits into the shift, refusing to bunt or settle for singles to left field. Francona said he's not bothered by the slugger's refusal to go the other way.
"That's not why he's here," Francona said. "He hits 40 homers and drives in 140. That's why he's here."
Williams tied it for the Yankees leading off the fifth with his third home run on the first pitch from Pauley.
Before Tuesday night, Wang was 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA against the Red Sox. He allowed eight hits in seven innings with two walks and two strikeouts.
The Yankees got nine hits, ending their franchise-record streak of reaching double digits at 12 games. ... New York 1B Andy Phillips turned an unassisted double play in the third when he grabbed Trot Nixon's line drive and doubled Ramirez off first base. ... Ramirez was thrown out by Damon in the sixth as he tried to stretch a single into a double.