Rick Rowand recaps Game 3 of the ALDS between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians in which David Ortiz says farewell.
In a season of redemption that saw the Red Sox go from worst to first in the AL East, Clay Buchholz, the longest tenured pitcher and third longest tenured player, also redeemed his season, and possibly saved his career. Buchholz, with the help of pitching overlord Brian Bannister, looked to his past to rescue his present and future. Clay pitched so poorly as a starter that he was relegated to the bullpen following his May 26th start after posting a 6.35 ERA and 1.465 WHIP through ten starts. But he took advantage of the situation, revamping his mechanics and pitching exclusively from the stretch. He rejoined the rotation and went 3-0 in his last five starts with an ERA of 3.14. Going into the elimination game, I was encouraged by the starting pitcher matchup but the tension was certainly palpable with Ortiz’s imminent retirement looming larger than the big man himself.
The following is a running account of this fan’s emotions as the game unfolded.
Nothing like starting off the game with a couple of mental errors! With the shift on and Bogaerts the only infielder on the left side, Carlos Santana hits a popup towards the Indians dugout. X loses the ball in the twilight sky and with the wind blowing from left to right, the ball falls safely onto the field for a “base hit.” Luckily, Carlos Santana was paying more attention to the people in the stands and was on a slow jog down the line. If he’d hustled, he could have ended up on second. Remember kids, always hustle or no juice box for you after the game!
Buchholz gets out of the inning unscathed, even with a hit by Francisco Lindor that moved Santana to second. That was a potential run scoring non-hustle brain fart by Santana to open the game.
Even though it was three up and three down for Josh Tomlin, they all put the ball in play!
In the Things I Learned Between Innings During the Broadcast file: Ron Darling informed us that “Tomlin pitches well because he has a big heart” – which is the first appearance in the series for that phrase. I wonder if scouts will start taking an EKG when they grade out pitching prospects. Ernie Johnson Jr. also gave viewers the “nickel tour” of Fenway which consisted of a shot of the Green Monster which “wasn’t painted green until 1947;” a shot of the triangle and a shot of the Pesky Pole. He later changed it to Pesky’s Pole.
Three things of note happened in the second and third innings. First, the old unintentional intentional walk, put Ortiz on first, which was probably a wise idea after Jason Kipnis reportedly told Ortiz during batting practice to “enjoy his last BP at Fenway.” Xander Bogaerts stroked a single into left field in the second. And finally, Buchholz did not allow a run in the first three innings – which is something that could not be said of the other Sox starters in this series.
The Indians lead off the top of the fourth inning with a hit and a walk. Francona reaches into his old school bag of tricks and has Coco Crisp drop down a bunt to sacrifice the runners to second and third. Tyler Naquin, with his – naturally – first hit of the series, drives in the runners with a single to right. Buchholz limits the damage to two,
The Heart of Tomlin pitches another three up, three down inning.
Drew Pomeranz comes on in relief of Buchholz and shuts the Indians down with two strikeouts and a popup.
Oh good, another out for the Sox… Bogie!! Two strike single to center and uber-talented rookie heartthrob Andrew Benintendi to the plate. It’s a wall ball double and Butters has sent Bogie home. Safe! Butterfield doesn’t even pretend he’s supposed to be in the third base coaching box and lines up in the grass just behind the fungo circle with Benintendi on second. But alas, the inning ends as many others in this series, with a Leon swinging K and a groundout to first by Jackie Bradley Jr..
Francona decides to play more small ball after Pomeranz walks Ramirez to start the inning. Lonnie Chisenhall the Indians’ sixth hitter, sacrifices, not the play most managers would have called with light hitting Coco Crisp coming up, but Crisp renders the point moot as Pomeranz’s hanging breaking ball goes over the Monster for a two-run homer. Just like that, the Indians are comfortably ahead 4-1 and the lefty is off to the showers. Joe Kelly comes in and he gets the Sox out of the inning.
The Heart is back on the mound for the bottom of the sixth and missing a beat, gives up a single to Pedroia in the 6-hole. Here comes Andrew Miller! In a move to fuel the Fire Farrell crowd, he sends in Aaron Hill to pinch hit for Brock Holt, even though Holt hit a double in his first at-bat against Miller. And Hill with a swinging strikeout. Mookie!! Wall ball double! And Papi comes up with a chance to tie the game. Ortiz lifts a sac fly to center and Pedroia scores! 4-2 now with two outs. Inning over as Ramirez strikes out swinging.
Kelly is lights out. Three up and three down.
With one down in the seventh, Chris Young pinch hits for Benintendi and draws a walk. Alive! Wait, I forgot Leon is coming up… aaand he lines out to third. JBJ comes to the plate with a chance to tie the game. Personally, I would have rather Farrell pinch hit Young for JBJ (or even Leon) since he’s yet to have a hit this series and Benintendi has shown that he is fully capable of reaching base, but Markov is always in play, so who knows what would have happened. Surprisingly, JBJ strikes out.
The also potentially at the end-of-the-road, Koji Uehara gets his chance to shut down the Indians hitters one last time. Napoli with the infamous backwards K and great plays by Betts and Bogaerts for the final two outs. In other news, Yalie Ron Darling uses “lumbersome” in a sentence to describe outfielders who have power, but can’t run to save their lives. Dude, you went to Yale. You should know better.
Bryan Shaw comes in to face Pedroia. Pedroia Ks looking and arguing at a pitch on the black. Travis Shaw pinch hits a single to right. Betts with the shot to third for the fielder’s choice. Cody Allen in to close out the hopes of Red Sox Nation. In a good baseball move, but a disappointing move for Sox fans, Allen walks Ortiz on four pitches. Papi takes over the role of cheerleader and gets the crowd into it. Ramirez laces a single to score Betts and move Ortiz to second. He is replaced by Marco Hernandez and Bogaerts, who is 2-3 tonight, comes to the plate with a chance to tie the game or give the Sox the lead with two outs. Line drive to Kipnis at second to end the inning.
Craig Kimbrel comes into the game. Hey, Kimbrel, I know this isn’t a save situation, but if your adrenaline level isn’t sky high in this situation, it never will be. Shut them down here to give the hitters another chance. And he does his job. On to the ninth.
With two outs it’s all up to Bradley – let that ball hit you Dorn. You can be a hero with a walk here. Base hit!! Pedroia up with two down and JBJ on first. 4-3. Pedroia walks! Shaw comes up with the series on the line. Allen still can’t find the plate and his pitch count is at 35. Shaw swings through a fastball. 1-1. 2-1. 3-1. That was ball four Shaw. As a general rule, you don’t swing at balls that are eye level. Popout. Game, set, and match.
As Cleveland celebrates on the field, the crowd chants for Ortiz to make a final appearance. Ortiz ended his baseball career as he lived it, mentoring a younger player. Marco Hernandez came in to pinch run for Ortiz at second as he had in Game 1. In that game, Hernandez had a chance to go to third on a pitch in the dirt. He didn’t and missed out on a chance to score on the Ramirez ground out. That run would have tied the game. When the Indians came to bat, you could see a shot of Ortiz with his arms on Hernandez talking to him about what he should have done, as a veteran should do.
After the Indians cleared the field, Ortiz came out to tip his cap to the fans for a final time and went back to the clubhouse with tears in his eyes.
Personally, the final innings of this game have been the most intense of any game since the final four of the 2004 ALCS. Not because if the Sox won it would give them a chance to win the ALDS, but because our time with Big Papi would be over.
From your heroics in the postseason ending the World Series drought, to bringing two more championships to Boston, to you proclaiming, “This is our fucking city and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong”, to tonight, you have been the heart and soul of this team. We have seen players come and go over the past 14 years, but you have been our constant. We still have, and always will have the Red Sox, but it will never be the same without you on the team.
Words cannot express the gratitude of myself and the other fans of the Red Sox for what you brought to this franchise and to the city of Boston. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.