BOSTON - David Ortiz knew his career was living on borrowed time, with a finite amount left.
What he didn't realize was just how little he had remaining.
He couldn't have had any notion, for instance, that when he hit a eighth-inning, game-winning homer against the Blue Jays on Sept. 30, it would be the last victory of his major league career.
And he probably didn't expect that when he came to the plate in the eighth inning Monday that it would be the final at-bat ever.
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The stage, after all, was set. The Red Sox trailed by two runs, but with a baserunner on, he represented the tying run. Another homer, another classic moment, was surely in the offing.
"I think the expectation, so many years with David, was there was going to be a big hit,'' said manager John Farrell. "And we were hopeful each time he was at the plate.''
But it wasn't to be. Instead, he drew a four-pitch walk. And when he took second following a run-scoring single from Hanley Ramirez, suddenly he was representing the potential tying run.
Marco Hernandez donned a helmet in the dugout and somewhat sheepishly, trotted out to second. Ortiz grabbed him as he arrived, offered some words of encouragement, and trotted to the dugout for the final time.
On his way, he exhorted the crowd to stand and make noise -- not for himself, but for his teammates who were trying to rally, desperate to avoid elimination.
He spent the last inning of his long storied career on the steps of the dugout, reduced to cheerleader.
"I was cheering so (hard),'' he said. "Once I got out of the game, I was screaming at my team to put me back in it. Make me wear this uniform one more day.''
There would be no more heroics, no storybook ending. There would not even be any baseball tomorrow after a 4-3 loss and a sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.
"That's the game,'' shrugged Ortiz after the Red Sox' season and his own career ended.
After Travis Shaw flied out for the final out in the ninth and it became official, the vast majority of Red Sox fans remained in Fenway, unable to let go, unable to say goodbye.
They wanted Ortiz one more time, even if it wasn't in the batter's box, no longer able to change the night's outcome.
Ortiz spoke briefly to his teammates and then was told that the crowd wanted a curtain call.
He obliged them, by going to a place he seldom visited: the pitcher's mound, where he was ringed by photographers and videographers, and enveloped, one last time, by the crowd.
"I definitely always want to show love to the fans,'' he said. "And that moment that hits you, you know you're never going to be able to be performing in the baseball world, in front of all this. . . It's something that, it kind of hit me a little bit. I'm not going to lie to you.''
Even if he wanted to convince anyone that he wasn't moved, he couldn't have. The tears that flowed freely down his face as he walked off the mound had already told the real story.
"It's got to end sometime,'' said Dustin Pedroia, "but this is definitely not how we expected it to.''
He was talking about Ortiz's long and great career. But he could have been talking about the Red Sox season, too.
When they ended, together, it felt like a double punch to the gut.