Red Sox Finish Difficult Season on a High Note With Second Straight Win Over Playoff-Bound Yankees

Red Sox Finish Difficult Season on a High Note With Second Straight Win Over Playoff-Bound Yankees

Postgame, Red Sox 8-4: The clubhouse was a flurry of activity as players and coaches prepared to leave. Some were out the door before the media portion ended, saying their goodbyes and looking forward to Fort Myers.

Theo Epstein and Terry Francona then sat down with reporters for a lengthy session that addressed everything under the sun. We will have more on what they had to say in a separate piece, and will use their feedback as we look ahead in the coming days to a challenging offseason.

On a personal note, thanks to all who visited the blog, whether just once or every day. Hopefully we provided enough insight, analysis and sarcasm to keep you entertained. Look for plenty of offseason content from myself and all of the NESN.com writers, and I hope to be blogging a game in Fort Myers for you in about five months.

Final, Red Sox 8-4: The final out at Fenway Park in 2010 is an Alex Rodriguez grounder to third. The Red Sox finish 89-73 and thus begins what is bound to be a wild offseason.

The Yankees will start the ALDS Wednesday in Minnesota.

Heading down to hear from the fellas before they go home for the winter. Up in a bit.

4:31 p.m.: Just as I say he wasn’t going to get a big ovation, Jason Varitek is removed after catching warmups from Jonathan Papelbon and walks off to a nice hand. Kevin Cash is now catching.

End 8th, Red Sox 8-3: Jason Varitek gave it a ride in what was potentially his last at-bat with the Red Sox. His drive to right takes Nick Swisher to the track.

Varitek raced into the dugout, as he always does, and the ovation was brief. He wants back anyway so in his mind he’s likely not looking for too much from the fans yet.

Jonathan Papelbon is on to get the last three outs of the 2010 season.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 8-3: The Yankees’ opportunity to get back in this thing goes by the board when Jorge Posada grounds to second with the bases loaded.

John Lackey’s book is closed. He goes 7 2/3 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits, two walks and a season high-tying 10 strikeouts.

4:15 p.m. A single by Robinson Cano drives in a run for the Yankees, adds a run to John Lackey’s line and gives the New York second baseman back-to-back 200-hit seasons.

Cano is the first American League second baseman to reach 200 hits in consecutive seasons since Carlos Baerga in 1992-93 with Cleveland.

Rich Hill gave up the hit and then walked Nick Swisher to load the bases. The tying run is on deck. Sounds like a good time to bring in Daniel Bard and end this charade.

4:09 p.m. A nice ovation for John Lackey as he goes 7 2/3 strong innings. He leaves with runners on first and third and Robinson Cano up with a last-gasp effort to get the Yankees back in the game.

Rich Hill is on to try to clean up the mess.

End 7th, Red Sox 8-2: Jed Lowrie has his second multi-homer game of his short season, a poke down the line in right that sneaks beyond the leaping try of Nick Swisher.

John Lackey’s pitch count is at an even 100 as he heads to the mound to start the eighth.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 7-2: The Yankees’ travel team is likely booking the charter to Minnesota as we speak. Although Tampa Bay is losing New York is down to its last six outs and will likely open at the Twins.

End 6th, Red Sox 7-2: In a season where his power lifted him from the ashes, David Ortiz goes out on a bunt hit to third.

Ortiz finishes 3-for-3 to end the year at .270 with 32 homers and 102 RBIs. He is given a curtain call, in large part for the fine season but also because of the great unknown. Ortiz is one of those with some offseason decisions to make, or at least have made for him.

Josh Reddick came on to run for Ortiz and came in to score on a single by Ryan Kalish. A sacrifice fly by Lars Anderson later on made it 6-2 and  Kalish stole home on a double steal to make it a five-run game. For Kalish he becomes the first Red Sox player to steal home since Jacoby Ellsbury last in April ’09 against the Yanks and is the first player on the club to have 10 thefts for Boston this year.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 4-2: John Lackey has faced the minimum through the past three innings. His strikeout of Alex Rodriguez in the sixth gets under the Yankees’ third baseman’s skin a bit.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Lackey but if this score stays the same his 14 wins are tied for the second most in his career. He also will wind up leading the team in starts (33), innings (213 1/3 at this point) and will have a team-high 21 quality starts if he doesn’t fall apart in this one.

He’s taken his heat but it’s not as if he hasn’t been out there every five days and eating up some innings.

End 5th, Red Sox 4-2: Now that Jed Lowrie is playing shortstop every single day and continuing to produce we can envision his potential in a starting role there next year.

That is not a definite scenario by any means, especially with the flexibility that Lowrie offers. But he is giving every indication that he can be a productive bat and a steady, if not spectacular, defensive shortstop.

Lowrie hits his eighth home run in his 55th game (several of which he did not start). Twenty-two of his 48 hits have gone for extra bases

Mid 5th, 2-2: A double play helps John Lackey get through the fifth having thrown 73 pitches.

The Rays and Royals are scoreless in the third, the Braves are up 5-2 in the fifth and the Padres and Giants are just underway.

End 4th, 2-2: David Ortiz has a single down the left-field line and a single down the right-field line. He also has an embarrassing base running gaffe in the fourth that stifles a potential rally.

Ortiz was on first when Bill Hall sent a deep drive to center. Big Papi took off for second and passed it, rounding his way to third as the ball was hauled in by Brett Gardner.

Ortiz tried to race back to the bag but the relay beat him handily.

Mid 4th, 2-2: We are so going extra innings. It’s been determined. These two have played three straight games involving bonus baseball, and there is no shaking John Lackey or Dustin Moseley.

End 3rd, 2-2: Dustin Moseley has settled in nicely for the Yankees. He has faced the minimum since David Ortiz’s single with one out in the first.

Mid 3rd, 2-2: J.D. Drew was a few innings away from going through a full season without making an error for the first time in his career. He couldn’t make it. Drew drops a bloop off the bat of Mark Teixeira for a two-base error and Alex Rodriguez follows with an RBI single.

End 2nd, Red Sox 2-1: Jason Varitek, perhaps beginning his final game as a member of the Red Sox, gets his first hit in over three months with a single to start the bottom of the second.

Varitek had been 0-for-13 with five strikeouts since returning from his broken right foot. There likely will be a point where ‘Tek is taken out of this one and given a nice ovation, based on some comments made by Terry Francona.

This time he is taken out when Daniel Nava hits into a double play.

The crowd is now singing “Happy Birthday” to Johnny Pesky, who turned 91 earlier in the week.

Mid 2nd, Red Sox 2-1: Terry Francona remarked early this morning after the Red Sox’ walk-off win that the park was playing big. It is looking a bit small early on in this one after Nick Swisher hits the second home run of the game to get the Yankees on the board.

End 1st, Red Sox 2-0: J.D. Drew has finished an otherwise lackluster year with a bit of a power burst down the stretch. With a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, Drew’s 22nd of the year, he now has 10 homers in a span of 39 games.

Mid 1st, 0-0: I’m not joking when I say that I told a colleague before this game started that John Lackey would set a career high in strikeouts. He is well on his way to surpassing that mark (12) after striking out the side in the top of the first.

1:13 p.m.: There is plenty to look for this afternoon on both sides of the field. While the Yankees will have their postseason destination within the next few hours, the Red Sox have a boatload of guys potentially finishing up their careers in Boston. Potentially.

Adrian Beltre, of course, left the team the other day for the birth of a baby daughter. The bargaining for him will begin soon and five days after the World Series other teams can jump in.

Mike Lowell had his day Saturday. He will not play and will ride off into the sunset perhaps the most appreciated Red Sox player of all time who played the majority of his career in another city.

There is a strong sense that Boston will pick up its $12.5 million option on David Ortiz and bring him back for 2011. But nothing is set in stone. I don’t anticipate it, but the possibility is out there that he is also playing his last game in a Red Sox uniform.

The same can be said for Victor Martinez, who is on the bench for the second straight game but will likely get a chance to make an appearance. He will join Beltre on the free agent list.

Finally, we have the captain and longest serving position player on the roster, Jason Varitek. While the aforementioned players have had very good seasons and have some youth on their side, Varitek’s 2010 campaign did not go as planned. The broken foot limited him to 39 games, which is how old he will be just after Opening Day 2011.

With Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the mix there is a chance that Varitek will not be brought back, and it’s not common for catchers that age to be re-signed. But Varitek, and his relationship with the team, is unlike any other perhaps in all of baseball. That was evident even in this “lost” season.

“Whether Tek’s here for another three years he deserves respect anyway,” Terry Francona said Sunday. “Regardless of what happens today, what Tek has done and will continue to do…that ‘C’ that he wears, there’s a good reason. When he’s going through tough times or he’s hurt, the true colors come out.”

Varitek missed 58 games (the club was just 29-29 during his absence) with the broken right foot. He remained a fixture in the clubhouse and the dugout, and in some ways took his leadership to a new level, according to Francona.

“This guy, he helped keep us together this year,” Francona added. “That’s not an easy task when you’re hurt. He went out of his way to be the captain, and if anything my appreciation and respect for him grew this year.

“He became more vocal. He tried to lead when he couldn’t play, and he pulled it off.”

Whether that is enough for the organization to bring back Varitek for a 15th season remains to be seen. It’s clear, however, that even in a limited role his presence was a big one.

12:54 p.m.: Tampa Bay begins play at 2:05 in Kansas City. Since this is Red Sox-Yankees both games may end around the same time. Only after then will New York manager Joe Girardi begin laying out his postseason plan (bench, bullpen, etc.). Here is the lineup he is putting out in an effort to keep the heat on the Rays:

Brett Gardner, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, DH
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, C
Marcus Thames, LF
Ramiro Pena, 2B

12:20 p.m.: We are back upstairs after hearing from Terry Francona and then spending time in an extremely busy clubhouse.

 

As players prepare to depart either late Sunday or Monday there is plenty of packing and organizing going on, as well as signing of jerseys, balls, etc. It is also Fan Appreciation Day here so there are events and giveaways all afternoon.

The vibe is a pretty positive one. Although the Sox are going home in a handful of hours there is an appreciation for one another for gutting through some tough times this year, and relief that those who are wounded can head home and start to feel normal again.

There is still one matter at hand and that involves trying to beat the Yankees, who need to win and hope that Tampa Bay falls in Kansas City to win the division. That is the lone remaining drama in the American League. Over in the N.L. there is still plenty to be decided.

We will have more from the desk of Terry Francona in a bit. 

10:55 a.m.: Greetings from Fenway Park, where it seems we never left. In fact, I think there area few workers who slept behind the press box. I saw a pillow.

Here is your lineup for the season finale:

Eric Patterson, 2B
Jed Lowrie, SS
J.D. Drew, RF
David Ortiz, DH
Bill Hall, 3B
Ryan Kalish, CF
Jason Varitek, C
Daniel Nava, LF
Lars Anderson, 1B

8 a.m.:The Red Sox will throw John Lackey in their regular-season finale Sunday against the New York Yankees, attempting to play spoiler one more time.

The Yankees would be rendered the wild card team with a loss. If New York wins it must hope for Tampa Bay to lose in order to claim the A.L. East crown.

That is all due to the fact that the Sox were able to split a doubleheader Saturday, claiming the nightcap in 10 innings by the score of 7-6. The two games took over eight hours to play.

Dustin Moseley will oppose Lackey. First pitch is 1:35 p.m.

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