BOSTON (AP) — The ball settled into the right fielder’s glove, the Cleveland Indians poured onto the diamond and the fans fell silent.
Then, slowly from the Fenway Park crowd rose a chant of “Pa-pi!”
While the Indians celebrated a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox for a three-game sweep and a berth in the AL Championship Series, the Boston fans demanded to see David Ortiz one more time Monday night. Ten minutes after the final out, when most of Cleveland’s players had moved the party into the visitors’ clubhouse, chants of “We’re not leaving!” and “Thank you, Papi!” finally drew the beloved slugger back onto the field.
Wearing a red warmup and a scowl on his face, Ortiz lumbered out to the mound and tipped his cap in all directions, tapping his heart. Only when the camera zoomed in on him did it become apparent that the frown was not regret over an early postseason exit: Big Papi was crying.
After two minutes, Ortiz retired to the dugout and retired for good, ending to a career that brought three World Series titles to Boston and transformed the once-futile franchise into winners.
“I’m glad he didn’t get a hit to beat us,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, who was Ortiz’s manager in Boston when they won the 2004 and ‘07 World Series. “I thought it was an honor to be on the field, competing against him in his last game, because he’s truly one of the best. You could tell the way people were hanging around yelling his name and everything. He deserves every bit of that.”
Indians closer Cody Allen got four outs to complete only the second postseason sweep in franchise history. Rookie Tyler Naquin delivered a two-run single and Josh Tomlin pitched five strong innings for the Indians, who reached the ALCS for the first time since 2007 and open at home Friday against Toronto.
Ortiz walked in the final plate appearance of his major league career but could only watch from the dugout when Travis Shaw hit a game-ending popup with a pair of runners on.
After hitting 38 homers — the most for a player in his final season — Ortiz was 1 for 9 against the Indians. He was hitless with two walks Monday, hitting a sacrifice fly in the sixth with two on instead of the three-run homer the Fenway Park crowd wanted.
Cleveland went 4-3 this year against the wild-card Blue Jays, who swept AL West champion Texas to reach the ALCS for the second straight year.
The Indians had not won a playoff series in nine years, when they beat the New York Yankees and then wasted a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS.
Perhaps inspired by the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA title — the city’s first pro sports championship since 1964 — there would be no blowing this lead.
Coco Crisp hit a two-run homer and Allen escaped jams in the eighth and ninth for the AL Central champions. Cleveland’s only other postseason sweep was over Boston in 1995.
Making it their goal to send their beloved Big Papi out as a winner, the Red Sox managed to win the AL East — the second time in four seasons they went from worst to first.
Boston raised fans’ hopes with an 11-game winning streak in September but then lost eight of its last nine games, including the playoffs. After winning the first two games in the best-of-five AL Division Series, and then waiting an extra day because of Sunday’s rainout, the Indians it took a 2-0 lead off Clay Buchholz in the fourth inning on Naquin’s single.
Tomlin gave up Andrew Benintendi’s Green Monster-scraping RBI double in the fifth, which gave some life to the Fenway crowd.
But with one run in, one out, one on and the fans taunting the Indians starter — “Tom-lin! Tom-lin!” — he struck out Sandy Leon on a pitch in the dirt and then Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded out to first. In the sixth, Crisp hit a two-run homer over the left-field wall to make it 4-1.
Buchholz allowed two runs and six hits in four innings, joining David Price and Rick Porcello as postseason losers.
Tomlin allowed two runs on four in five-plus innings. Andrew Miller pitched two innings, Bryan Shaw got two outs and Allen came on to face Ortiz with two out and a man on first in the eighth.
After walking on four pitches — the final plate appearance of his career — Ortiz stood on first and waved his arms at the mostly dormant crowd of at 39,530. The fans rose to cheer for him and stayed there as Hanley Ramirez singled to make it 4-3.
Now representing the tying run at second, Ortiz was lifted for pinch-runner Marco Hernandez, leaving the field to a raucous cheer. But even after coming out of the game, his work wasn’t done: With one foot on the top step of the dugout, he continued to cheer the team on.
Xander Bogaerts hit a hard line drive to second and Ortiz jumped onto the dirt, only to turn around and walk dejectedly back into the dugout when it was caught for the last out.
Jackie Bradley Jr. singled with two out in the ninth, then Dustin Pedroia drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Travis Shaw worked the count full before flying to medium right.