Red Sox congratulate Tribe: 'They played great'

Players discuss respect for Indians' rotation, bats and focus after ALDS loss

Red Sox congratulate Tribe: 'They played great'

BOSTON -- He worked a walk and took a moment to gather himself in the batter's box before slowly jogging to first base. He pounded his chest and waved his outstretched arms up and down, physically entreating the crowd to get loud. No one wanted to win more than David Ortiz.

Once he had time to process the Red Sox's season-ending 4-3 loss to the Indians in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on Monday, Big Papi had nothing but respect for his opposition.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CLE 5, BOS 4 video
Gm 2 Oct. 7 CLE 6, BOS 0 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 CLE 4, BOS 3 video

"Definitely I had to congratulate Tito and the Cleveland Indians, they played unbelievable baseball," Ortiz said. "And that's what happened. That's what the game is all about. Short series, whoever played the best is going to dominate."

At the peak of their 11-game winning streak in September, the Red Sox were equipped with a team that was poised to reach the World Series. No one expected them to bend, let alone break.

Now, even though it's painful, the Red Sox put everything aside and tipped their caps to the Indians.

"What they did to us, we expected to do to them, because we feel like we have a better ballclub," Ortiz said. "But when it comes down to the playoffs and short series, it's not about who is the best, it's who played the best. And obviously they did."

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The Indians put the second-guessers aside, coming in hot against a team that hardly went cold. Many Red Sox players acknowledged Cleveland's exceptional pitching staff, albeit one that was bit by the injury bug in losing Danny Salazar to a sore elbow and Carlos Carrasco to a fractured hand.

In his first career postseason appearance, Josh Tomlin limited the relentless Red Sox offense to four hits -- the fewest by a visiting pitcher at Fenway Park in a potential clinching game since Game 5 of the 2008 AL Championship Series.

"We just couldn't find our rhythm," Dustin Pedroia said. "We couldn't string consecutive hits or at-bats or anything. And to be honest with you, it's more a credit to them. I mean, they were on the corners with good stuff. I mean, they pitched good. They played great. Sometimes, as frustrating as it is, you have to tip your cap. That's why they're moving on."

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Clay Buchholz made perhaps the biggest comeback for the Red Sox this season. After digging himself into a hole that lasted into July and spending ample time in the bullpen, Buchholz understands how important it is to fight.

"Everybody in baseball knows how hard it is to sweep a three-game series within the season," Buchholz said. "To do it in the postseason, that's something else. They played better ball than us, they got the hits when they needed to get the hits, that's part of it. Gotta regroup, get your mind right, go into the offseason with the right frame of mind and put the work in to get better."

Indians manager Terry Francona said it was difficult to beat the Red Sox on their own turf, against a deafening crowd of 39,530 -- Fenway Park's largest attendance since 1945.

"That's hard to do. I'm glad we opened in Cleveland. It let us get our legs under us," Francona said. "We took care of business tonight. We went to our bullpen. I'm glad we won. Coming back tomorrow, it would've been hard. So, I'll let these guys enjoy it. They deserve it, and we'll kind of get everybody together tomorrow and start moving forward."

Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.