No big hits left for Big Papi as Red Sox swept from playoffs
David Ortiz didn't want it to end.
With his team trailing the Cleveland Indians by two runs in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, Boston's biggest star trotted to first base after an eighth-inning walk Monday night and turned toward the Red Sox fans who had cheered him through so many memorable moments for 14 seasons.
Raising his hands high above his head , he tried to clap the Fenway Park crowd into a frenzy one more time.
It wasn't to be.
After providing so many huge hits for the franchise, winning three World Series championships and becoming a beloved figure in Boston, it was time for Big Papi's story to end.
That four-pitch walk turned out to be the final plate appearance of his storied, 20-year major league career. He was soon replaced by a pinch runner and left to a standing ovation. But he could only watch from the dugout in a red pullover when Travis Shaw hit a game-ending flyout an inning later as the Red Sox were swept out of the playoffs with a 4-3 loss.
After the final out, the crowd of 39,530 — the largest at Fenway since at least World War II — chanted "We're not leaving!" and "Thank you, Pa-pi!" for more than 10 minutes, drawing Ortiz back onto the field.
The 40-year-old slugger strolled out to the mound to cheers and tipped his cap in all directions, tapping his heart and eventually wiping tears from his eyes as a year's worth of emotions flowed through him.
"I went through like three different times where emotions popped. But they're different," Ortiz said.
His initial thoughts were about the loss of his friend and Miami Marlins star Jose Fernandez, killed in a boating accident last month. It wasn't until later that Ortiz thought about his own career .
"Tonight when I walked to the mound, I realized that it was over," he said. "Even if things didn't end up the way we were looking for, I believe that in baseball, especially in the baseball game that we play in today's day, it's a big step because it's like going from bad to good, from day to night."
After a career that included a 2013 World Series MVP award and 10 All-Star appearances, Ortiz had two chances Monday to deliver another one of the clutch postseason hits he's become so well known for.
In the sixth inning against reliever Andrew Miller, the designated hitter came to the plate with one out and runners on second and third, but could only muster a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Dustin Pedroia and pulled Boston to 4-2.
That was still the score in the eighth when Ortiz came up with two outs and Mookie Betts on first base.
Ortiz walked on four straight pitches before imploring the crowd to its feet.
He finished his final game 0 for 1 with two walks and an RBI. But he was just 1 for 9 in the series.
"Obviously, I'm not happy that moment shows up," Ortiz said. "I was cheering so bad. Once I got out of the game, I was screaming at my team to put me back in it. Make me wear this uniform one more day. Because I wasn't ready to be over with the playoffs."
Reminders of Ortiz's 14 seasons in Boston greeted him from the moment he arrived at the ballpark.
The first piece of nostalgia came in a "Thank You! 34" banner that hung over the players' parking lot throughout the season. It features a caricature of him with both hands pointing to the sky as he gazes upward.
During batting practice, about a dozen TV cameras lined up for Ortiz as he made his way through the clubhouse tunnel to the field. They panned and then paused with him as he reached the top of the dugout and leaned for a moment against his bat while looking toward the Green Monster.
Then there were the ovations .
The first one came about a half-hour before the game when Ortiz took the field to stretch. He ran a few sprints before settling on a spot in front of a special Red Sox logo that was cut into shallow center field.
He wasn't there long before he was joined by Indians players Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis. Each gave him a hug. Santana and Lindor stayed to stretch alongside him.
It was Indians manager Terry Francona's turn during pregame introductions. Ortiz was introduced and joined his teammates on the first base line. He then caught the eye of his former manager, who gestured with both hands as if he were bowing to the slugger.
"I'm glad he didn't get a hit to beat us," Francona said . "I thought it was an honor to be on the field for his last game. He's truly one of the best and you could tell the way people were hanging around yelling his name. He deserves every bit of that."
With tears in his eyes afterward, Shaw said emotions were raw throughout the clubhouse.
"That's not the way you want to end the season. Especially in David's last year," he said.
But the slugger said he has no regrets about how his career ended.
"The game, the game I love, the game that made me who I am," Ortiz said. "The game that I look forward to (getting) better every day is something that I'm definitely going to carry for the rest of my life. And those moments, they're always going to be special. They're always going to stay with you."