BOSTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona could have relished the moment, a three-game American League Division Series sweep of his old team, capped by Monday's 4-3 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. After all, he was Boston's manager for some of David Ortiz's greatest moments. His club ended
BOSTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona could have relished the moment, a three-game American League Division Series sweep of his old team, capped by Monday's 4-3 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. After all, he was Boston's manager for some of David Ortiz's greatest moments. His club ended Ortiz's career.
And yet, the first words from Francona at his postgame press conference were words of praise.
"That's quite a team we were fortunate enough to beat," Francona said. "And also to David, that was an honor to be on the field for his last game. I think you can see by the way the fans reacted, their outpouring of affection for him, that was an honor."
:: ALDS: Red Sox vs. Indians coverage ::
The reaction from his players, some of whom were former Red Sox themselves, was similar.
"The Red Sox, these guys are an amazing ballclub, some of the best hitters in the game, and their pitching staff is fantastic," said Coco Crisp, who played in Boston from 2006-08 and hit a two-run homer on Monday. "And we were able to win this. Our thing is to just go out there, be ourselves, continue to have fun, put our best out there -- as long as you leave it all out there and are having fun -- you can go home knowing that you left your best out there."
Andrew Miller was a part of the last Red Sox World Series team in 2013, though he didn't pitch in the postseason that year after undergoing surgery on his left foot midseason. He still draws from experience on that team, he said, even as he went about shutting down the 2016 club for four innings over two appearances.
"The offense that we faced, this team is so great," Miller said. "But particularly from the perspective of a relief pitcher, this offense is just unbelievable. To find a way, it doesn't have to be pretty, and it wasn't tonight. …
"I was here with the Red Sox, and I think probably the most underappreciated storyline from that 2013 team is how good the bullpen was. And I think I can draw from that experience. And I think people are starting to appreciate that more and more."
Cleveland's bullpen was the difference in the series, capped by halting Red Sox rallies in the eighth and ninth innings on Monday night. And as Cody Allen ended it with a Travis Shaw popout, the juxtaposed scenes of an Indians celebration at short and the crowd chanting for Ortiz around the Red Sox made for a memorable scene.
All series long, Francona joked about his time with Ortiz, saying he'd glady donate to his foundation if he did nothing to beat him. He couldn't have figured he'd get through a best-of-five series in three games without being hurt by the slugger.
"I'm glad he didn't get a hit to beat us," Francona said, "but I thought it was an honor to be on the field competing against him in his last game. He's truly one of the best. You can tell the way the people were hanging around, yelling his name and everything. He deserves every bit of that."
Even some Indians players, who were savoring their first postseason series win since 2007, couldn't help but get drawn in.
"Everything he's done, not just on the baseball field, but off the field for this city, the respect they show him, the love, is very warranted," Crisp said. "I was out there giving a few more interviews and I was able to see him come out and get on the mound and raise his hat up. He was tearing up, and I'll be dagnabbed if I wasn't tearing up, too.
"It's going to be weird not seeing him over there playing and doing what he does. It was a sad moment for me to see him walk off that field and know that this was his last hurrah, but he went out with a bang. He put up one of the best retiring seasons in history, and I'm happy for him that he went out on top of his game. I love that guy."
Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.