BOSTON -- Having lost two of their top three starters after playing most of the season without their best hitter, the Cleveland Indians weren't given much of a chance to making a real run at the franchise's first title since 1948.
However, step one is out of the way after the Indians swept the Boston Red Sox -- and ended David Ortiz's career -- in the American League Division Series. They now move on to meet the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Championship Series starting Friday night in Cleveland.
"Every team that makes it to the playoffs believes in themselves," left fielder Coco Crisp said after his two-run homer and key sacrifice bunt helped the Indians close out Boston with a 4-3 decision in Game 3 on Monday. "These guys in here, as soon as I came in (Aug. 31), I felt the chemistry. Everybody loves each other, it's almost like a family.
"I know we had some adversities, a couple of our star pitchers (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) went down, and those are the times where that belief and that family, that family feeling that you have with your teammates, you have that faith in (them) to step up and they did."
Crisp arrived in a trade with the Oakland A's to man the spot of injured left fielder Michael Brantley, who appeared in just 11 games this year and underwent season-ending right shoulder surgery in August.
In 2007, Crisp won a World Series with the Red Sox. His manager, Terry Francona, won two with Boston before leaving under strained circumstances. Indians reliever Andrew Miller, who worked two scoreless innings in Game 3, was with the Red Sox from 2011-14.
Francona insisted beating Boston did not make it extra special, saying, "You know what, what it meant to me is to celebrate with the Indians and our crew. I don't care what it is. I mean, I respect that we beat a heck of a team, but to celebrate with our guys, that's what was meaningful to me."
Francona called it "an honor" to be there for Ortiz's finale -- Ortiz finishing his final game on the bench after being lifted for a pinch runner. He was 1-for-9 in the series, including 0-for-1 with two walks and a sacrifice fly Monday. Ortiz tied Derek Jeter for fourth place on the all-time list with 61 postseason RBIs.
The fans called for him after the game, and he came back out onto the field, leaving in tears.
"I'm not going to lie to you, what (the Indians) did to us, we expected to do to them," Ortiz said of the series.
Said Francona: "I'm glad he didn't get a hit to beat us. ... He's truly one of the best, and you can tell the way people were hanging around yelling his name and everything. He deserves every bit of that."
Ortiz, who played in all 76 postseason games the Red Sox were involved in starting in 2003, announced his pending retirement last November and then had an outstanding final season -- .315 average, 38 home runs and league-leading figures in RBIs (127), doubles (48), extra-base hits (87), slugging percentage (.620) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.021).
"I'm happy, as long as I played for these fans, I never took anything for granted," he said, adding "I told my teammates to feel happy and good about themselves."
The Indians, who survived when Travis Shaw flied meekly to right field with two on and two outs in the ninth inning, got a 2.70 combined ERA out of their three starters in the series -- with Josh Tomlin working five-plus innings of two-run ball Monday.
Crisp's bunt set up a two-run single by rookie Tyler Naquin in the fourth inning, and then Crisp made it 4-1 with his homer off Drew Pomeranz in the sixth.
Tomlin won a head-to-head pitching battle with junior college teammate Clay Buchholz. Andrew Miller pitched two scoreless innings. Bryan Shaw came on in the eighth, got two outs and left with a runner on.
Closer Cody Allen entered to face Ortiz and walked him on four pitches. Standing on first base, Ortiz waved for the crowd to get loud, and it did. Hanley Ramirez then lined an RBI single, but after Ortiz left for a pinch runner, Xander Bogaerts (two hits) lined out to second to end the inning.
Allen then got the first two outs in the ninth before Jackie Bradley Jr., 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts in the series to that point, singled on a 3-2 pitch. Dustin Pedroia worked out a 3-2 walk. Shaw, who didn't start the game, hit a fly ball on a 3-2 pitch, sealing Allen's second save of the series.
The Red Sox, who won the AL East after finishing last the two previous seasons, lost eight of their last nine games. They failed to score more than one run in an inning in any of their last 44 frames of the season.
NOTES: The sweep was the Indians' first in the postseason since 1995, when they swept the Red Sox in the AL Division Series. ... The Cleveland starters limited Red Sox hitters to a .217 batting average in the three-game sweep. ... The Indians have won three of the five postseason series between the teams and are 3-1 against Boston in the ALDS. ... The Indians improved to 20-13 in division series games, while the Red Sox fell to 19-21. ... LHP Andrew Miller has not allowed a run in 12 1/3 postseason career innings. He has 17 strikeouts in that span, and the opposition is 3-for-39 (.077) against him.