“They know that and they understand that,” Middlebrooks said after Sunday’s season finale in Fenway Park. “That’s my first priority, is to be healthy. When spring training gets here, I want to be ready to compete. That’s my priority. I’m sick of being hurt. At no point this year was I really healthy.”
David Ross in May, sprained a muscle in his rib cage, then was sent to the disabled list with back spasms, his back a continuing issue for much of the season.
This season, he hyperextended a finger in training camp, strained a calf in April which put him on the disabled list, then fractured his left index finger while fielding a ground ball in May and did not return to the Sox until Aug. 1 after an extended rehab assignment (26 games) in Pawtucket that had to be restarted once after he experienced a setback. He ended the season unable to play because of a sprained right hand he sustained in batting practice.
“I never really dealt with injuries my whole life until I broke my hand and then this all started,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s been 2 ½ years.”
The Red Sox have seen only rare glimpses of the player Middlebrooks was when he burst onto the scene as a 23-year-old, hitting 15 home runs and 14 doubles in just 267 at-bats. After batting .227 with 17 home runs in 94 games in 2013, Middlebrooks played in just 63 games for the Red Sox this season, batting .191 with 2 home runs and 19 RBIs. His last home run for the Sox came on April 26.
Because his playing time was so curtailed this season, Sox GM Ben Cherington approached Middlebrooks about playing winter ball, but Middlebrooks declined, saying he preferred to work out in his home in Texas this winter. Cherington addressed the topic during his media session Monday, saying Middlebrooks’ decision to not play this winter would not impact his standing with the club this spring.
The Sox currently have three potential options on their roster to play third base: Middlebrooks and rookies Garin Cecchini and Brock Holt. Middlebrooks offers the most power potential, while Cecchini and Holt both hit from the left side. Cherington has said adding a left-handed bat is an offseason goal and acknowledged that third base is a possible place where they could add one. Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval are two potential free-agent targets.
“I think at this point he’s made a decision that he’s going to focus on other things this winter,” Cherington said. “He feels like he can address what he needs to address without playing winter ball. That’s the decision he’s made so we expect him to be in Texas for the most part. Whatever treatment he needs will happen early in the offseason.”
Cherington remained neutral when asked whether he was in accord with that decision.
“We talk to players about all sorts of offseason stuff. Sometimes it’s not playing winter ball, sometimes it is, sometimes it’s let’s go here instead of there,” Cherington said. “That’s a conversation we had with a lot of players. We’re going to present information and what we feel like might be helpful.
“Ultimately, offseasons belong to players and they need to do what they feel is in their best interest, and that can be different for each guy. He gave it consideration, he thought about it and I think he understood where we were coming from. He just feels like it’s in his best interest to focus on an offseason without playing and get strong, get ready for spring training.”
Here is what you need to know (Much of it you already knew):
• Adding top-of-the-rotation starting pitching is a priority. [The Jon Lester watch begins the day after the World Series ends, as that’s when he becomes a free agent].
• The Sox want free agent Koji Uehara back as closer.
• Who plays center field for 2015 and beyond? Having both Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts is a good problem to have, and these things have a way of sorting themselves out. Castillo will take a couple of days off, then report to the Arizona Fall League where he will play through October, then on to the Puerto Rican winter league for about a month.
• Yoenis Cespedes, regardless of whether he signs an extension this winter, appears to be a key part of the 2015 plan.
• Some of the kid pitchers could end up in the bullpen.
• Lack of offensive production was the No. 1 problem, and has to get better. Yes, the game is changing, but the Sox have no plans to deviate from what has worked for them in the past: working the count, grinding at-bats, emphasizing getting on-base.
• The club is counting on Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia to be healthy by the start of camp, and Shane Victorino to be ready to go sometime during camp.
• A left-handed bat is a priority, but while third base would appear to be a logical place for the Sox to add one, the Sox feel both Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini can be big-league third baseman.
• The Sox made some misjudgments in integrating young players into the lineup this season, but won’t back off from young players in the future -- they are the key to sustained success.
• David Ross is hardly a lock to return as backup catcher, but hasn’t been ruled out.
• No one is writing off Jackie Bradley Jr.
• No decisions have been made yet on the coaching staff, although it appears changes may be forthcoming, either by voluntary departure [hitting coach Greg Colbrunn may leave to spend more time with his family, Torey Lovullo and possibly Brian Butterfield could be hired as managers] or dismissal.
• Cherington will assemble his baseball ops staff next week to formulate a strategy, present it to ownership sometime this month, then fine-tune their plans to execute that strategy.
Taking these points, one by one:
Cherington: “We’d like to add to the rotation. There are different ways to do that.’’
There are three, really: Signing a free agent (Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields), trading for one (Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, or Chris Sale, an admitted longshot) or going the Japanese route [Kent Maeda].
Cherington was asked whether the team would rule out giving a pitcher 30 or older a deal longer than five seasons.
“I think there’s a presumption that we would prefer to stay away from those, but that’s not a policy,’’ he said. “There’s a preference to avoid really long-term contracts with pitchers or position players in their 30s. But that’s not a hard policy. But it would guide us. Obviously, length becomes an issue as guys get into their 30s, certainly.”
Could be a deal-breaker for Lester and/or Scherzer, although Sox sources, both in and out of the clubhouse, believe the Sox will be serious contenders to re-sign Lester.
On Uehara, who turns 40 next April, being re-signed:
“I think we’ve been very clear that we’d like to keep Koji with us, and I’m confident we’ll make every effort to do just that,’’ Farrell said. “What he went through late in the season, we’ve been able to determine and see that he went through that previously when he was with Texas.
“While every elite pitcher, every pitcher, is going to have some stretches where their performance is less than -- we feel that has been the case with Koji -- and despite the age, he’s still a very good performer and a guy that we want to anchor the back end of the bullpen with.”
On figuring out how to fit both Castillo and Betts in the lineup:
“I think you’re assuming it’s a problem,’’ Cherington said. “I don’t think we can assume it’s a problem until it’s a problem, and in October it’s not a problem. If it’s a problem at some point, great. If we have too many good players for the spots we have, I guess that’s a problem and we’ll deal with it. We all know a lot can happen between now and next April; we’ll see where we are. We finished in last place. We need more good players, not less. So hopefully we’ll continue to build on that.’’
On how Cespedes, eligible for free agency after next season, fits into Sox plans even if he doesn’t sign an extension:
On how Vazquez has demonstrated he’s ready to be the everyday catcher in 2015:
“The best way I can answer that is if we added to our catching group with Christian as the lead catcher,’’ Farrell said, “I think what we've seen in 175-190 at-bats, whatever the total number of plate appearances have been, in addition to the impact he’s made defensively, I think we’d be very comfortable with him if nothing were to change.”
On how some young starters could be shifted to bullpen roles:
“Yes, we could envision part of that group, one of that group, whatever that number might end up being, being part of our bullpen,’’ Farrell said. “We have a couple of guys who have experience there -- Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa. What the pitching staff ultimately looks like is going to be directly impacted on what we bring in, acquire this off-season. Yes, we can see some guys going to the bullpen and contributing in those roles.”
On addressing the offense:
“The game has changed,’’ Cherington said. “Offense has changed. Power, in terms of at least home runs, is down, and even on-base is down across the league. There are all sorts of reasons. We know we need to build a better offense to produce more. I think we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water. If we can see pitches, grind at-bats, get on base and still hit with power and hit with runners in scoring position, then I still think that’s a formula to score runs, and more runs than our opposition.’’
On adding a left-handed bat, and whether that could be at third base:
“There’s some interest in adding a left-handed hitter somewhere,’’ Cherington said. “There’s different ways of doing that, too.
“We have two young third basemen we believe can be very good major league players. I’m speaking about Will [Middlebrooks] and Garin [Cecchini]. And then we have Brock Holt, who was one of our better players over the course of the season who also can play third base. There are options there. Obviously in Brock’s case, with his performance this year, he’s given all of us the belief that he’s part of a winning team. Exactly how that plays out we’ll see. There’s time to figure that out. I think going back to what John said, we need to build a better offense, a more consistent offense.’’
On the impact of adding young players in 2014:
“Looking back on it,’’ Cherington said, “what we tried to do was build a team that would allow for that and where the young players were protected enough so we could still be competitive and winning and then get into a season and be able to make adjustments if we had to. That was our plan. I think it is certainly fair to say we didn’t execute the plan as well as we should have, so that’s what I look back on and ask myself is there a better way that I, or we, could have executed the plan, and I think clearly the answer is yes. The results are the results.
“So we need to execute better. That leads to better performance. I take responsibility ultimately for the performance. We’re not going to and we can’t shy away from the idea of committing to young players when they prove they should be committed to, because that’s still the best way we can sustain a level of success over a long period of time.’’
Farrell, on the same topic: “It’s been a roster of change and it’s one that’s building. And when you think about the young, talented guys that have emerged here this summer, it is exciting. It’s exciting because you can look on the field and see a couple of guys, or multiple guys, that could be together for a long period of time. That’s not to guarantee anything, but their early returns on the opportunities provided this year have been positive. And when you start to look at Mookie, Xander, Rusney, Christian, you start to get a number of names that because of their age and because of what they’ve done in the early stages of their career, it’s very promising.”
On whether a decision has been made to re-sign Ross, a free agent:
“No, I’ll have a chance to talk to David here in the coming days,’’ Cherington said. “With the season ending the way it did, I didn’t have a chance to catch up with him before he left, but I will sometime this week. We’re not making any determination right now on catcher, but we’re certainly not eliminating anyone either. David, I think when we signed him two years ago, what we were hoping to have happen with that position mostly happened. He’s done a lot for the organization.’’
While general manager Ben Cherington said the team believes Napoli should be able to recover with time, he didn’t rule out the possibility that further evaluation would be needed.
“We think all those will resolve naturally,” Cherington said. “He may get some treatment on some of them.”
Another issue Napoli has struggled with is sleep apnea, something Cherington said he’s dealt with for several years but has gotten worse with time. Napoli brought the issue to the team’s attention, prompting them to take advantage of the full offseason to further examine his sleep disorder.
“It’s affected him, so because we have a longer offseason we may look to work with him on some different ways to manage that going forward,” Cherington said. “We don’t know what that’s going to mean yet but just so you guys know it’s something we're working with him on.”
• David Ortiz's wrist injury that required him to sit out the final five games of the season has already been treated, according to Cherington, and is expected to resolve itself without any concern.
• Dustin Pedroia continues to recover from left-wrist surgery performed Sept. 11 and is still expected to enjoy a normal offseason back home in Arizona.
• Shane Victorino has been rehabbing from his back surgery performed Aug. 5 and is “doing well,” according to Cherington. If the outfielder continues to remain on track without any significant setbacks, Cherington said that he should be active at some point during spring training -- including games played.
“I think our hope would be that he would be in games at some point in spring training but it’s too far away to know exactly when,” Cherington said.
• And finally, Allen Craig will not undergo any treatment regarding the Lisfranc injury to his left foot that he suffered last September while he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. The injury caused Craig to have a shortened offseason, something that played a large contributing factor in his down season at the plate (.215 batting average).
“We’ve had it examined, we don’t believe -- he doesn't believe -- it’s an issue,” Cherington said. “He’s just focused on having a good offseason. I think we’ve done everything we can to make sure that the foot is OK going forward. No further testing needed.”
8. Chicago (AL)
9. Chicago (ML)
In addition to the No. 7 overall pick in 2015, the Red Sox could be in a position to earn a compensation pick if the club offers reliever Koji Uehara a qualifying offer, he declines, and he signs with another team. Depending on the number of other qualifying free agents who sign elsewhere across the league, that pick would generally be in the No. 28 to No. 35 range. Boston also has other free agents who could sign elsewhere, but none who are expected to receive a qualifying offer, which is a prerequisite for draft compensation.
The Red Sox will also have the sixth pick in each of rounds 2 through 40, which should place their pick in the No. 45 to No. 50 overall range.
As part of the Jon Lester trade, the Red Sox also own Oakland’s 2015 competitive balance round draft pick. The pick is the second selection in Round B, which is held between the second and third rounds of the draft, and is expected to be in the No. 70 overall range. This pick can be forfeited if Boston signs another team’s qualifying free agent.
As it stands at this very early stage, the top prospects in the 2015 draft include left-hander Brandy Aiken, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, who the Astros were unable to sign. It’s unclear where Aiken will play in 2015 at this point. Others include right-hander Phil Bickford, the No. 10 overall pick in 2013; center fielder Daz Cameron, the son of former Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron; Duke right-hander Michael Matuella, a possible No. 1 overall pick; LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, who Boston selected in the 29th round in 2012; prep shortstop Brendan Rodgers, one of the top high school players in the nation; and Vanderbilt righty Walker Buehler, who was named the top prospect in the 2014 Cape Cod League by Baseball America.
“We don’t think so,” Cherington said. “He was doing baseball activity here -- BP, ground balls. Assuming he gets clearance from Dr. Collins we wouldn't be concerned about it going into the offseason.”
BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington announced Monday that pitcher Clay Buchholz will undergo surgery on his right knee Tuesday. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Peter Asnis and Buchholz is expected to have a normal offseason.
"It's a meniscus repair," Cherington said. "This is something that he's had some off-and-on symptoms for some time now. Not something that prevents him from pitching, but we just want to use the offseason to take care of this. It's a relatively routine procedure. Pretty quick recovery, shouldn't affect his offseason."
Cherington said that the ailment is something Buchholz has dealt with over the course of at least this season.
"It's not something that's there all the time; it's symptoms that kind of come and go," Cherington said. "And so we just felt like given where we are on the calendar -- it's a fairly quick recovery -- just knock it out and then he should have a normal offseason."
Buchholz endured a difficult season on the mound, going 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA in 28 starts. However, Cherington maintained that the meniscus issue had no impact on Buchholz's performance.
"It was not a debilitating issue," Cherington said. "It was something that he managed. I think he would tell you that it did not affect him. We're just trying to be proactive so that it doesn't turn into something bigger."
Colbrunn cited a desire to spend more time with his family -- he has two teenage daughters -- as a reason he might elect not to return next season.
Boston went from having the majors' most prolific offense in 2013 -- Colbrunn's first season as a big league hitting coach -- to having one of the worst in 2014. The Red Sox finished tied for 12th in runs scored with 634. They were 14th in slugging percentage (.369), 12th in home runs (123), eighth in on-base percentage (.316) and 14th in OPS+ (92), which is on-base plus slugging adjusted to a team's home park.
The Red Sox were last in the league in batting average on the road (.233) and last in batting average with runners in scoring position (.237).
On June 4 in Cleveland, Colbrunn, 45, was rushed from the ballpark to the Cleveland Clinic after developing bleeding on the brain, a potentially life-threatening condition. He returned to the team on a full-time basis six weeks later.
The Red Sox had added an assistant hitting coach, Victor Rodriguez, before the 2013 season. General manager Ben Cherington was expected to address the status of the coaching staff when he met with reporters later Monday.
BOSTON -- As he had done 12,601 times before in his career, Derek Jeter stepped into the batter’s box in the third inning on Sunday.
Ichiro Suzuki on third base, one out. Clay Buchholz threw the pitch. Jeter swung the bat. Garin Cecchini couldn’t rope the ball in off a high chopper. There it was, an RBI single and the end of Jeter’s illustrious career.
And to those who were a part of the moment for the Red Sox, the game stopped as each took it all in.
There was Buchholz, who was excited when he was first told he’d get the start on Sunday.
“[Red Sox manager] John Farrell asked me a couple of weeks ago, ‘You know, I have you slated to start that last game,’ and it was a no-brainer for me,” Buchholz said. “That’s definitely somebody that I idolized growing up being a shortstop.”
David Ross, who had asked Farrell to be behind the plate Sunday.
Cecchini, who attempted to make the play on Jeter’s single coming in from third.
“I saw the ball off the bat. We’re taught when it hits right down, you’re supposed to come charging in. I came charging in, and the thing was up in the stratosphere. I tried to make a play, barehand it and throw him out or throw Ichiro out, whichever one wasn’t closest to the base. I’m happy for him, man, he’s had an awesome career, he was my childhood idol growing up. To be on the same field with him, that’s an honor.”
Allen Craig, who was manning first as Jeter reached safely.
“It was kind of one of those surreal moments where you see him chop it off the plate, you kind of knew it was going to be a hit. I wasn’t sure if he was going to stay in the game or come out or whatnot. I saw that he was coming out and just thought, ‘Wow, this is it.’ And I get to be at first base. I was just honored to be out there and be a little part of his special day and special moment.”
And then it was over. Yankees manager Joe Girardi removed Jeter for a pinch runner, and the players had their final interactions with the iconic shortstop as he walked off the field.
Craig at first: “I just told him congrats on an awesome career and thank you. Thanked him for all that he’s done for the game.”
Buchholz at the mound: “He just wished me health and a good offseason and a long career. He didn't have to come up to me, he’s a class act, you know. That’s how everybody knows him throughout baseball. Now he gets to start another chapter. Definitely the classiest person I’ve ever met.”
Cecchini at third: “He didn’t say anything, he just tipped his cap to me and I tipped my cap right back at him. That was pretty cool. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”
The entire day was dedicated to Jeter, with a pregame ceremony that had been planned for weeks by team executive vice president Dr. Charles Steinberg and other Red Sox staffers.
It started with a tribute video to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, cheers erupting with each sighting of the Yankees' captain. The Green Monster scoreboard changed from the date to “WITH RE2PECT 2 DEREK JETER.”
At the start of the ceremony, Jeter ran out to where he would normally stand at shortstop. Then he was met by a procession of Red Sox legends led by Carl Yastrzemski, who was followed by other local sports icons -- the Bruins’ Bobby Orr, the Patriots’ Troy Brown and former Celtic Paul Pierce. Former Boston College baseball captain and ALS Ice Bucket Challenge inspiration Pete Frates would join them after a video of Jeter taking the challenge earlier this year was shown.
Next came third-base coach Brian Butterfield, a former mentor and close friend to Jeter, to present him with custom-made L.L. Bean boots. Behind him, the entire 2014 Red Sox team, led by David Ortiz. Each man cordially shook the hand of Jeter and walked on, Joe Kelly the only exception, as the pitcher who struck him out a day earlier paused to take a selfie with the shortstop. Kelly's wife, Ashley, took to Twitter to share her thoughts.
Dustin Pedroia rounded out the pack, presenting Jeter with a pinstriped replica of second base marked with the No. 2 on it.
When I was 12, I thought I would marry Jeter. Instead I married the guy that took a selfie w/ him during his ceremony pic.twitter.com/3BrkWBQHgy— Ashley Kelly (@ashleynicokelly) September 28, 2014
A check for $22,222.22 was presented to Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation, and he was given a Green Monster placard that read “RE2PECT” by Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts.
For Bogaerts, who grew up idolizing Jeter and wears the No. 2 in his honor, the moment was unforgettable.
“Special moment, special day,” Bogaerts said. “I got a chance to go and hold the ‘RE2PECT’ sign next to him. Couldn’t have asked for anything more than that.”
And after “The Voice” contestant and Massachusetts native Michelle Brooks-Thompson serenaded Jeter with the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” (Franklin herself was unavailable, as she is ill, ESPN Boston was told), the ceremony was over and it was time for a game to be played.
All in all, it was another successful ceremony for Steinberg and the crew.
“I thought the pregame ceremony played out not to be overstated, probably to reflect the wishes of Derek himself and that’s just assumed on my part,” Farrell said. “It was done with a touch of class.”
If there was a villain to be played on the day, the role belonged to Jemile Weeks. In his first at-bat, Jeter lined a Buchholz pitch to shortstop, which Weeks instinctively leapt into the air to snag.
No regrets from Weeks, either.
“The guys in the other dugout were like, ‘Come on, get out of the way.’ So I guess after he got his first hit he was going to go ahead and leave the game. I messed that up a little bit, but he still did it.
“The kind of guy he is, he probably wouldn’t want it like that.”
Giving Jeter what he wanted was what the day was about. The rivalry was put to the side, the game took a back seat and the crowd -- made up of Red Sox fans and Yankees fans alike -- came together to pay tribute to a “gentleman playing a gentleman’s game,” as Weeks described him.
And at the end of the day, every member of the Red Sox was just happy to be a part of it all.
Cecchini: “I’m glad I got to shake his hand, and I told him congrats and thanks for being a great role model for young kids like us.”
Buchholz: “I didn’t really think too much of my season this year, but just being a part of that, it made it worth it for me. To be the last guy that faced him in his career, that’s pretty cool.”
Craig: “It was one of those deals where you get goose bumps and you just feel honored to be on the field. To be a part of his last game and just to be out there. It was incredible.”
Weeks: “You know Derek Jeter is about to have a ceremony and it’s his last game. There’s a lot to be uplifted for. For me to be on the field for his last game for him and with the Boston Red Sox, it was just a great thing.”
Bogaerts: “It was definitely nice to be around him.”
And Ross: “He could have went out in New York and really went out on a high note. He gave respect to these fans and this organization.
“I don’t know if you could ever do too much or not enough for a guy like that. Hopefully he enjoyed it.”
Major League Baseball catchers have endured their fair share of injuries this season, from Russell Martin's strained hamstring in May to Matt Wieters' season-ending Tommy John surgery to Yadier Molina's torn thumb ligament that sent him to the disabled list for seven weeks after the All-Star break. Catching is a demanding job, and distressing MRI results are an inevitable part of the equation.
But a quick inventory of the 2014 carnage appears to show that catchers are less likely to miss time after being steamrolled, Pete Rose'd or otherwise sent hurtling from the vicinity of home plate. As Joe Torre routinely points out in his role as the game's executive vice president of baseball operations, MLB made major strides this year protecting catchers from "egregious" injuries like the one that threatened to end Buster Posey's career after a home plate collision with Scott Cousins in 2011.
If that agenda has produced some collateral damage in the form of confusion and hard feelings, that's a natural byproduct of what baseball considers progress.
MLB Rule 7.13, adopted in late February on a one-year experimental basis, has weathered lots of scrutiny and survived the regular season pretty much intact. Now that the playoffs are about to begin, the focus will shift from safeguarding catcher health to accuracy and disaster aversion.
Amid ongoing predictions that Rule 7.13 is a "postseason disaster waiting to happen," players, managers, fans and the people at MLB headquarters in New York would prefer that things unfold in a less suspenseful way.
BOSTON -- Tom McLaughlin, the longtime Boston Red Sox equipment manager, was the one who grabbed a red marker and left a message on the whiteboard hanging on the back of the clubhouse door Sunday afternoon.
-- Pitchers, catchers report
-- Position players report
-- 7:30 a.m. Early work Field #6 w/Butterfield
Instead of champagne-soaked carpets and plastic-covered cubicles, the markings of a champion's playpen, there was only an obstacle course of equipment bags and packing boxes, the screech of masking tape replacing the sound of popped corks. Handshakes and quiet hugs were the order of the day. No one roamed the clubhouse in an Army helmet or goggles. No beards were being tugged. Mike Napoli, the last holdout, just shaved his off.
Outside, there was no giddy Ryan Dempster on the mound at 2 in the morning, throwing batting practice to his friends. No Jon Lester, child in his arms, wife and parents by his side, posing for pictures while a joyous mass of humanity pressed against the box-seats railings, cheering and crying and laughing. No David Ortiz, hoisting a shiny trophy aloft. Boston Strong, the baseball version, felt like a distant memory.
Instead, as a glorious afternoon turned to a balmy night stolen from summer, Red Sox front office staff and their families wandered in the outfield, quietly enjoying a company picnic. The stands were empty.
For the third time in four years, the exception being the first World Series celebration at Fenway Park in 95 years last October, it was time to hang a "Closed for the Season" sign in the Fens before it's customary around here to do so.
"Today was the final game," manager John Farrell said after the Sox had lost a 9-5 finale to the New York Yankees
BOSTON -- Goodbye Derek Jeter and goodbye 2014.
The Red Sox closed the book on their disappointing season with a 9-5 loss to the New York Yankees Sunday afternoon. The loss dropped their record to 71-91, 20 games under .500.
Naturally, Jeter was the primary focus all afternoon as the Yankees shortstop ended his career going 1-for-2 with an RBI. He lined to short in his first at-bat before knocking in a run with an infield single in the third and being removed for a pinch runner. Jeter received a standing ovation from the fans and both teams on his way into the dugout, where he hugged his teammates and spent the remainder of the game.
Clay Buchholz had the honor of being the last pitcher to face Jeter as he went six innings, allowing four runs on five hits in his 11th loss of the season. Buchholz ended the season with a 5.34 ERA.
He was followed out of the bullpen by Craig Breslow, who gave up five consecutive hits without getting an out in a disastrous end to his disastrous season. All five runs came around to score as Breslow’s ERA jumped from 5.13 to 5.96.
The Red Sox answered the Yankees' five-run seventh by scoring five runs in the bottom of the frame, highlighted by a Dan Butler double with the bases loaded that gave the catcher the first two RBIs of his career. A third run came around to score on the play after Yankees outfielder Eury Perez committed an error.
Mookie Betts also had a strong day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a stolen base. He ended his rookie season hitting .291 with five home runs and 18 RBIs.
Attendance for the finale was 36,879, the Red Sox’s 43rd sellout of the season. Fenway Park drew 2,956,089 fans this season, the second consecutive year under three million after five straight years over that mark.
For the second straight season, the final Sunday of the regular season featured a no-hitter, although it took a phenomenal defensive play to finish it.
Jordan Zimmermann threw the season’s fifth no-hitter and the first for the Nationals since the franchise moved to Washington, D.C. The last pitcher to throw a no-hitter for a team from the city was Bobby Burke for the 1931 Senators against the Boston Red Sox.
Zimmermann threw it against the Marlins, who got a no-hitter from Henderson Alvarez on the final Sunday of the regular season last season against the Detroit Tigers. Alvarez was the losing pitcher in this game.
This was also the second time in three seasons in which there was a no-hitter on Sept. 28. Homer Bailey threw one against the Pittsburgh Pirates on this date in 2012.
The Nationals join the 1975 Athletics as the only teams to throw a no-hitter on the last day of the season and then go on to the playoffs. The 1975 Athletics finished with the best record in the American League but were swept in three games in the ALCS. The Nationals finish the regular season the best record in the National League and will start with a best-of-five NLDS in their first playoff series.
How he won
Zimmermann got 19 swings and misses, the second-most in any start of his career and one shy of his career high, 20 against the Brewers on June 24, 2014.
He got six strikeouts with his breaking pitches, tying a career high. Seven of the strikeouts came on pitches in the lower third of the strike zone or below, tied for the most in any start in his career.
Zimmermann threw 23 first-pitch strikes to the 29 hitters he faced. All 10 of his strikeouts came after being ahead in the count, 0-1.
Zimmermann also chipped in a pair of hits, joining Tim Lincecum as pitchers to have two hits in a no-hitter this season. According to Elias, the last one before Lincecum was Rick Wise (who hit two home runs) in a no-hitter for the 1971 Phillies.
Elias also notes that 15 different players had a putout or an assist in the game, the most by any team in a no-hitter.
Play of the game
Steven Souza, inserted as a defensive replacement for Ryan Zimmerman in the ninth inning and playing only his fourth major league game in left field, made arguably the play of the season to end the game, a sprinting, diving catch in left field.
It's not the only notable defensive play to come late in a no-hitter:
- Sept. 16, 1960 -- Johnny Logan makes a terrific play on a ground ball off Warren Spahn's glove, throwing out Bobby Malkmus for the final out of a no-hitter for the Braves against the Phillies.
- April 15, 1987 -- Robin Yount makes a diving catch on Eddie Murray's line drive to center field for the final out of Juan Nieves' no-hitter for the Brewers against the Orioles.
- July 28, 1994 -- Rex Hudler's slicing line drive is caught on a terrific diving play by Rusty Greer for the first out of Kenny Rogers' perfect game for the Rangers against the Angels.
- July 10, 2009 -- With one out in the ninth, Aaron Rowand makes an incredible catch in center field on a ball hit by Edgar Gonzalez to record the second out of the ninth inning in Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter for the Giants.
- July 23, 2009 -- DeWayne Wise, inserted as a defensive replacement in center field, robs Gabe Kapler of a home run for the first out in the ninth inning to preserve Mark Buehrle's perfect game for the White Sox against the Rays.
This was the sixth no-hitter to be thrown on Sept. 28. Elias notes that this date is tied with April 27 and Sept. 20 as the dates with the most no-hitters, the most recent of which before Sunday was Bailey for the Reds against the Pirates in 2012.
And since the baseball world always comes full circle, the first of those was thrown by a pitcher named Ed Cushman for the Milwaukee Brewers of the now-defunct Union Association in 1884.
The team against which that no-hitter was thrown was the original Washington Nationals.