Light touch to finale — Ortiz bunt
David Ortiz may have made baseball history yesterday when he received first a standing ovation and then a curtain call for a bunt single.
The slow-footed slugger beat the Yankees’ defensive shift in the sixth inning when he unexpectedly pushed the ball down the third base line to an unoccupied swath of grass.
He reached safely, was pulled for a pinch runner, and the ovation started. Ortiz tipped his helmet before ducking into the dugout. When the cheers grew louder, Ortiz emerged and saluted the crowd.
Helped by the surprise small ball, the Red Sox beat the Yankees, 8-4, before a crowd of 37,453 at Fenway Park. The victory left the Red Sox 89-73 and dropped the 95-67 Yankees into the American League wild card. They will open the playoffs Wednesday in Minnesota.
Jed Lowrie homered twice and drove in three runs while John Lackey (14-11) allowed two earned runs over 7 2/3 strong innings. He matched his season high with 10 strikeouts.
Lackey, who had a disappointing first season in Boston, allowed only five earned runs over his final 20 2/3 innings.
“A learning experience,’’ he said of his season. “It was definitely up and down. I like some of the new tools I’ve added this year with [pitching coach] John Farrell. Moving forward is going to be good.’’
Lowrie returned from injury and illness to hit .287 with 23 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs over 55 games.
“I’m happy with the way I played this year and the way my body responded,’’ he said.
Ortiz was 3 for 3 and finished the season at .270 with 32 home runs and 102 RBIs. He didn’t stick around after the game.
“Papi had a great year,’’ general manager Theo Epstein said. “He put up terrific numbers, just about everything you can ask for from your designated hitter.’’
Epstein said the team would wait until the deadline three days after the World Series before deciding whether to pick up Ortiz’s $12.5 million 2011 option.
Regarding Jacoby Ellsbury, Epstein said the team expects the outfielder to be an everyday player again and, “a significant part of the team.’’
He repeated his belief that Josh Beckett would devote himself to improving after posting a 5.78 ERA in 21 starts. “He’s going to fix it in the winter,’’ Epstein said.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had a career-worst 3.90 ERA, still has Epstein’s confidence.
“Pap didn’t have the year this year that he traditionally puts up,’’ Epstein said. “He’s still a really good closer. He’s still going to help us win games. He’s got a little work to do to get back to that elite level.’’
“It’s a little strange, but I’m very happy,’’ he said as he walked around the clubhouse, stopping to sign jerseys and balls for teammates.
Lowell’s first game was Sept. 13, 1998, in New York. He was called up five days earlier when the Yankees were at Fenway.
“I remember Pedro [Martinez] pitched for the Red Sox and we beat him and then the next day we clinched the division and everybody celebrated,’’ Lowell said. “Everybody was pouring champagne and I just sort of watched. I had just got there.’’
Lowell played in eight games for the Yankees that September then was traded to the Marlins after the Yankees signed Scott Brosius to an extension.
“It all worked out for me,’’ Lowell said.
Kevin Cash, who did not have an RBI in 57 previous at-bats, came to the plate with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and saw 11 pitches before drawing a walk to force in the tying run.
“He had a really good at-bat,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Good for him. He hasn’t played much the last month but he’s always energetic and trying to help and helped us win a game.’’
Cash had not driven in a run in a major league game since June 13 when he was with Houston. “That was the longest at-bat I’ve ever had,’’ Cash said. “It was good, it worked out well. Big RBI any time against the Yankees is good.’’
In the 10th, Bill Hall hit a double to center, Cash bunted him to third, and Eric Patterson singled to center. His teammates chased him into the outfield to celebrate.
“Once I hit it, I knew they were coming. I was contemplating making them chase me around the field, but it was a long day,’’ Patterson said. “Everyone needed to get out of here. It was a lot of fun.’’