BOSTON - OCTOBER 3: Jason Varitek #33 of the Boston Red Sox reacts to fan applause as he leaves the field for a replacement in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park October 3 2010 in Boston Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 8-4. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
OTM Game Recap: Red Sox Spoil Yankees Division Hopes With Win In Season Finale
Box Score (Via ESPN)
When the Fenway Faithful rose to their feet to applaud Jason Varitek in the eighth inning, it was a very real possibility that it was for the last time. The Captain's contract was up, and with his 39th birthday coming just a week into the 2011 season, his return was anything but certain.
It was nearly a magical moment, as Varitek turned on an 0-1 sinker, sending it high, and far, but not quite gone. The ball died in center field, but it hardly mattered. Tek would receive another standing ovation, as Terry Francona gave him the chance to take the spotlight, leaving the field for a replacement as the ninth inning started.
Of course, now we know that Jason Varitek's Red Sox career was not over with that fly out. All the better, than, that it was a game filled with great moments.
It was the last game of the season and, for once, the Red Sox would not be heading to the postseason. Ruined by injuries and poor bullpen work, the Sox did have an opportunity to play spoiler, however,with the Rays and Yankees tied for the AL East division lead. The Yankees don't hang banners for division titles, and the division loser was guaranteed the Wild Card anyways, but for the Red Sox, it was something to play for.
And play they did. It was, really, kind of a microcosm of the entire season.
Poor bullpen performance? Check. Jonathan Papelbon gave up a run in his only inning of work.
A slow start for John Lackey? Check. The much-maligned Boston Starter gave up an early 2-run lead in the first three innings. Equally noticeable, however, was the strong finish. Much as Lackey had showed some of the performance the Red Sox had paid for in the second half of the season, he finished strong in his last start of the season, ending the game with 7.2 innings, a pair of earned runs, and 10 strikeouts against the vaunted Yankees lineup.
Fireworks from the returning Jed Lowrie? Check, check, double check. The game started innocuously enough for Lowrie, who walked to set up J.D. Drew's early two-run shot before striking out in the third. But in the fifth, Lowrie repaid Dustin Moseley for his earlier strikeout and then some, launching a 3-2 curveball into the bullpen for a 2-run shot of his own.
Lowrie wasn't done there, though. If seeing him hit a bomb off of Moseley was fun, then seeing him hit one off of Joba Chamberlain? That was some kind of Nirvana. Having the intensely disliked Nick Swisher run into the wall in pursuit was just an added bonus.
And how about the continued renaissance of David Ortiz? One hilarious check. Remember, this was possibly Papi's last game with the Red Sox, too. Nobody was sure if the team was interested in picking up his option, even after a great 2010. Receiving huge cheers of his own, Papi delivered twice with base hits in the first and fourth. Then, in what may have been his last at bat with the team, David Ortiz...bunted.
It seems like for the past few years, David Ortiz would, every couple of months, decide that he was going to get that bunt down the third base line. It never worked. Not exactly accustomed to the bunt, Papi would push the ball out of bounds. Finally, though, with the third baseman playing in short right field, Ortiz dropped one down, chugged his way to first, and left the game.
The Red Sox will have both Ortiz and Varitek back, but that doesn't make the game any less fun or special. It was a great way to see off a disappointing season, with just about everything going right for once.