BOSTON -- David Ortiz stepped off the field at Fenway Park for the final time as an active player at 9:21 p.m. Monday night, into Boston’s dugout and with an adoring crowd roaring its goodbye, if it was one.
Thirty minutes later, as the Cleveland Indians celebrated at second base here, Ortiz and the Red Sox learned that it was.
Ortiz’s 20-year career ended unceremoniously, as he looked on for the final out. But the home fans wanted more. “We want Papi,” they yelled, almost the entire crowd unmoved from their seats and paying no attention to the Indians. Instead, they all looked to the Red Sox dugout, hoping he would emerge again.
A player who had made his name starring on championship teams, one that had ended an 86-year drought that had felt more like a curse for the Red Sox and then two more to prove that a new era had begun for the franchise, exited quietly. The Indians beat Boston 4-3 in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, sweeping the favorites.
Ortiz walked in his final plate appearance, taking four pitches without lifting his bat in the eighth inning and then was pinch-run for by Marco Hernandez -- giving an answer to a trivia question sure to come -- as the Red Sox chased a tying run. It didn’t come and the Red Sox fans chanted “David” in the bottom of the ninth, hoping to see their hero again.
Cleveland will now face Toronto in the ALCS, returning home to Progressive Field for Game 1 on Friday.
The Indians played this game nearly to plan. They jumped to a two-run lead in the fourth inning, built on it in the top of the sixth, then deployed Andrew Miller, their trump card in the bottom of the inning.
“He's probably the best left-handed reliever in baseball now,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before the game. “I'm sure there are some people in Chicago that might disagree with that. But he's a tremendous weapon when you've got flexibility to use him at any point in the game. We know him personally for the time that he spent here, how he's evolved as a reliever. Hopefully the game doesn't present itself where he's on the mound.”
Farrell’s wishes went unheard. Miller came into the game with none out and Dustin Pedroia on first after a single. It was a situation similar to what Miller saw when he was thrown into the muck in the fifth in Game 1. He struck out Aaron Hill, but Mookie Betts blasted a double off the Green Monster that nearly went over it too. That put runners on second and third for Ortiz.
Miller had struck out Ortiz Thursday, this time he allowed a sacrifice fly, but limited the damage to that. The left-hander threw another inning, a scoreless seventh, and left the Indians holding on to a two-run advantage.
It was a chess move by Indians manager Terry Francona again. And it came as Farrell left himself open for second-guessing.
The game remained scoreless until the fourth inning, when Buchholz finally broke. He had weaved into and out of trouble prior to that frame but found outs in reserve. This time, he was not so fortunate.
Jose Ramirez led off the inning with a single and Buchholz then walked Lonnie Chisenhall. After Coco Crisp laid down a sacrifice bunt and moved them over, Tyler Naquin came to the plate. He had batted thrice in the series up to that point and struck out each time -- Buchholz had fooled him in the second with a two-seam fastball. This time, on an 0-1 count, Naquin pounded an 80 mph curveball into right field and scored Ramirez and Chisenhall both, giving Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
The Red Sox quickly halved it. Xander Bogaerts singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth and then Andrew Benintendi cracked a changeup the other way, off the Green Monster, for a double as Bogaerts sped home. He beat the throw and waved his arms declaring himself safe as he lay splayed on the dirt at home plate.
But it was already a dangerous situation for the Red Sox. Down two games and playing on a razor’s edge, they had little room for error. Farrell had called for two relievers to get ready in the bullpen as Buchholz faltered in the fourth but waited until the fifth to bring in Drew Pomeranz.
It had seemed as if the lessons of Game 1, when Terry Francona called Miller into the game surprisingly early, with two outs in the fifth, had gone unnoticed.
The Indians had taken the lead and locked in a way to hold onto it. By the end, all the Red Sox could do was watch as a series and a career faded away.