By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Red Sox led all of baseball in runs, hits, doubles, on-base percentage and OPS. They had the best offense in Major League Baseball.
In the playoffs, those bats had gone into hibernation.
As a result, their season is over. Abruptly.
Clay Buchholz surrendered two runs in the fourth inning and Drew Pomeranz gave up two more on a Coco Crisp home run in the sixth, the latter of which silenced a sold-out Fenway Park and worked to quickly kill any and all Boston momentum built up from Xander Bogaerts’ headfirst slide across home plate in the bottom of the fifth.
And just like that, a rejuvenating Red Sox season that saw the team go from worst to first ends after just three playoff games. The Cleveland Indians simply outpitched and outhit the Red Sox across the board, and they made it clear which team was better over the course of 27 innings.
The Lonnie Chisenhall two-RBI single in the fourth and the Coco Crisp two-run homer in the sixth were Cleveland’s most important moments at the plate, but it was the work of Andrew Miller to limit damage in the bottom of the sixth that went a long way in determining this game.
The lanky left-hander entered with Dustin Pedroia on first base and nobody out, promptly striking out pinch hitter Aaron Hill to bring up Mookie Betts. The MVP candidate got the better of Miller this time, sending a moon shot to left field that scraped the wall and advanced Pedroia to third base.
At that point, with David Ortiz coming to the plate, the game could have gone two different ways. Ortiz could have done what Ortiz tends to do, which is deliver a clutch double or homer that flips the game on its head. Or, Miller could limit the damage, take advantage of his three-run cushion, and get the Indians to live to see the seventh inning.
Miller got ahead with an 0-1 count but then missed the strike zone on consecutive pitches. Ortiz was then ready for a Miller breaking ball, and he made solid contact. Yet his line drive to center field was within Rajai Davis’ range, and the center fielder made the catch.
Pedroia tagged and scored, cutting Cleveland’s lead to 4-2, but Miller then struck out Hanley Ramirez to get out of the inning.
Miller again pitched around a one-out walk in the seventh, getting Sandy Leon to line out and Jackie Bradley to strike out swinging.
The Red Sox ended up plating a run in the eighth against Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, and they threatened with two base runners against Allen in the ninth, thus making the relief work of Andrew Miller in the sixth and seventh innings all the more important. The left-handed reliever was without question the most important player of the series.
For the second straight game, this honor has to go to Cleveland’s starting pitcher. While Josh Tomlin wasn’t quite as dominant as Corey Kluber was in Game 2, the right-hander kept the Red Sox at bay through five innings, which allowed the Indians to capitalize and build a lead. Considering the effectiveness of Cleveland’s bullpen, the work of the starting pitcher figured to be the major influence in how this game played out. Tomlin — who allowed just four hits and one walk — made sure his team never fell behind.
Honorable mention goes to Coco Crisp, for hitting that two-run homer and driving in what proved to be the game-winning — and series-winning runs.
The Drew Pomeranz trade was a worthwhile one for the Red Sox to make. But it did not work out. Not this year, at least.
The lefty hung a breaking ball to Crisp that was too high and split the plate in half. Crisp’s not exactly considered to be a power threat, but even he could launch that pitch out of the yard.
Considering how hard the Red Sox offense fought back, that one mistake on the mound proved to be the critical moment in this game.
Also sure to catch some heat are Sandy Leon, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, and Dustin Pedroia, all of whom struck out looking during a game when the Red Sox needed to be more aggressive at the plate.
Sadly for the Red Sox, there is none. David Ortiz’s career ends in most unceremonious fashion, as the Red Sox have been swept out of the postseason.
They made it interesting, though. Down to their final strike, the Red Sox were kept alive by a Jackie Bradley line-drive single in the bottom of the ninth. Dustin Pedroia then worked a walk after swinging at a 3-1 fastball that was over his head. With two on and two out, Travis Shaw took a healthy hack at a 3-1 fastball but couldn’t connect. On the 3-2 pitch, with the runners going, Shaw flew out to right field, thus ending the game and the series.
While three-game series can sometimes be volatile experiences, there can be no case made that the Indians didn’t deserve all three wins. Though the Red Sox showed fight in Games 1 and 3, the Indians handled it and added even more.
The Indians now move on to host the Blue Jays in the ALCS. For the Red Sox, the offseason begins now. But there’s plenty of time for that. For now, there will be a day or two for this sudden ending to the season to be digested in Boston.