This is not the day, or the way, he wanted it to happen. But David Ortiz's career came to an end on a cold autumn night in Boston.
Like so many of his fondest moments, the stakes were high and the lights were bright. An October baseball game at Fenway Park. Just as he'd done in 2007, en route to the Red Sox' second World Series victory of the millennium, his opponent was the Cleveland Indians.
But this time, Terry Francona was managing the other team. And this time, Coco Crisp, who hit .194 that postseason with the Red Sox, hit a two-run homer for Cleveland to put the final game out of reach in the sixth inning.
Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and more
And this time, Boston went down in three.
The 4–3 loss in ALDS Game 3 came off an adequate start by Clay Buchholz, who had a bad regular season featuring a 4.78 ERA, poor peripherals and a losing record. Buchholz gave up two runs, all in the fourth inning.
He had allowed six hits and a walk on 75 pitches when John Farrell lifted him after that inning.
Andrew Benintendi doubled in Xander Bogaerts to cut the Indians' lead in half in the fifth. But then Drew Pomeranz, who pitched extremely well in Game 1, gave up the blast to Crisp in the sixth. Boston responded by taking another one back that inning – Dustin Pedroia walked, Mookie Betts doubled and Big Papi smacked one hard to center. Rajai Davis caught it, but it scored Pedroia.
In the eighth, Ortiz was part of another run, moving Betts to second with a walk. Hanley Ramirez singled Betts home. Farrell lifted Papi for a pinch runner, but Bogaerts lined out to end the inning.
Closer Craig Kimbrel pitched a spectacular ninth. Then with two outs, Jackie Bradley Jr. singled and Pedroia walked. But Travis Shaw flew out to end the game, and Francona went back to the ALCS for the first time since he faced his new team in 2007.
The Red Sox may not have ended on top in Ortiz's final year. But all season, Ortiz played better than anyone could have expected. He hit 38 home runs, more than anyone 40 or older ever has. He led all of baseball with 48 doubles and a 1.021 OPS, and he led the American League with 127 RBI. His .620 slugging average is the second highest any player ever had in his final season – behind only fellow Red Sox legend Ted Williams.
Without Ortiz's postseason heroics, Boston would be a very different place. The MVP of the 2004 ALCS and the 2013 World Series has consistently excelled in more than half a season's worth of playoff games. And Ortiz's radiant personality has been just as important, his rallying cry of "This is our f***ing city" embodying everything that is Boston in the wake of the tragic marathon bombings.
We won't know for some time whether Big Papi is a Hall of Famer. But most fans who have watched him over his 14 years with the Red Sox have little doubt he belongs there.