BOSTON -- Part of David Ortiz's legacy will be remembered as his ballclub's ability to be one swing away from the big hit it needed. But those crucial knocks never materialized in the American League Division Series, which is why the Red Sox will soon be cleaning out their Fenway Park lockers.
The most potent offense in the Major Leagues was limited to just seven runs by the Indians, who completed a three-game sweep with a 4-3 victory on Monday night.
Xander Bogaerts notched Boston's first two hits of the evening, but it was a scorched eighth-inning lineout that left him wondering, "What if?"
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"We all wanted to go further, especially for David, but we just didn't make it happen," Bogaerts said. "That line drive I hit at the end, if it was somewhere else, it's a base hit and would have been a different situation. I would definitely trade any hits I got this year for that one to go through."
That came as Bogaerts batted with two men on and two out against closer Cody Allen, the Sox threatening after Hanley Ramirez punched an RBI single into left field to trim Cleveland's lead to one run. According to Statcast™, the expected batting average on that contact was .673, but the ball landed in second baseman Jason Kipnis' glove.
There was plenty of frustration to go around in a series where the Red Sox batted just .214, with Cleveland hurlers combining to log a 2.33 ERA with 31 strikeouts against just eight walks over the 27 innings. The Sox went 3-for-21 (.143) with runners in scoring position, leaving 20 men on.
"It's a small sample size," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We just couldn't find a rhythm at the plate. They pitched great, too. That's basically it. Good pitching beats good hitting. That's not new information. If you pitch good, you're going to win."
All told, the Sox never scored more than one run in any inning, continuing a limp to the finish that saw them drop five of their last six regular-season contests and cost them home-field advantage over the Indians. Boston's last multirun inning came in the opening frame of an Oct. 1 loss to the Blue Jays, a span of 44 innings.
"The inability to string some hits together, generate the bigger inning, that wasn't there," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "So that puts us in a spot where we are today."
Earlier in the eighth inning, Mookie Betts ripped a hot shot down the third-base line that Jose Ramirez stabbed, turning what could have been a game-changing knock into a fielder's choice. The exit velocity on Betts' smash was 112.5 mph, with an xBA of .571.
"We hit some balls hard in those situations," Betts said. "I know I hit one hard that didn't get down the line, then Bogey did. If one of those balls goes through, it's a completely different ballgame. We're producers, not directors."
Jackie Bradley Jr. snapped an 0-for-20 skid with a ninth-inning single and was standing at second base representing the tying run when Travis Shaw sent a ball to right for the final out. Bradley said that he doesn't believe the Red Sox wilted under the brighter postseason spotlight.
"A lot of people will say the easy thing and say, 'Oh, it was too much pressure,'" Bradley said. "That's not true. This isn't life or death. It's just a game. Either you succeed or you don't. It has nothing to do with so-called pressure. You go out there, play the game, and we're out there to compete as hard as we can."
Boston never led after the third inning of Game 1, when Rick Porcello served up three home runs in the span of four batters. The offense went 14 straight innings without a run before Andrew Benintendi snapped the skid with a fifth-inning RBI double off Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin on Monday.
"We just didn't get it done in the end," Bogaerts said. "We tried a lot of stuff. Getting on base was the hardest part. Their pitching staff did a great job. Those guys were pretty much putting the ball wherever they wanted. They didn't make a lot of mistakes. They capitalized on the mistakes we made."