CHICAGO -- Postseason baseball has become almost a rite of autumn for the Red Sox of recent years, as the club had played on the October stage the last three years, and in six of the previous seven. But that impressive streak officially came to an end on Tuesday night, when Boston's 2010 team was eliminated from postseason contention.
The next five games will be solely for pride. It was a weird feeling for veterans who have been accustomed to playing in the most crucial games of the year.
Dating back to David Ortiz's final season with the Twins (2002), he had been to the postseason in seven of the last eight seasons.
"It's gonna be a little crazy," Ortiz said. "Too much time -- too much time off. I've been in the postseason every year almost. This is the second time since I've been here. You just have to get ready for next year and try to be in there."
In many ways, the season put forth by this Boston team should not be viewed as a disappointment. The Red Sox played most of the final two months of the season without Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, three key components of the lineup. In fact, Ellsbury was hardly a factor all season with three separate stints on the disabled list because of left rib woes.
"There's been a lot of stuff that's happened," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "To be where we're at ... a lot of guys should be proud of what they contributed to this team."
To stay alive as long as they did was a testament to both heart and organizational depth.
"That's a good sign," said Ortiz. "I think we've got a lot of guys with heart here and the ability to play the game and a lot of young talented kids, they opened a lot of eyes this year. That's good to know. I personally had no idea about our farm system, how much talent we have until I saw [Ryan] Kalish, [Daniel] Nava, [Yamaico] Navarro. To see those kids come up and do their thing, that's a good sign."
The Red Sox lost to the White Sox, 5-4, on Tuesday, but they were eliminated before their game ended. When the Yankees beat Toronto and the Rays downed the Orioles, Boston's magic number was at zero.
For Varitek, who worked doggedly to come back from a broken right foot, the end is coming a little too swiftly.
"I didn't know until after [the game] to be honest with you," said Varitek. "I haven't had much of an opportunity to absorb it. It's disappointing, obviously. That's probably the biggest thing. That's what you prepare for in the offseason, and then you start in the spring, and you work throughout a season to get an opportunity. All you want is a chance."
This is just the second time in manager Terry Francona's seven years in Boston that the Red Sox will go home after game No. 162.
"Actually I hadn't given it any thought because we were paying attention to what we were doing," said Francona. "[I'm] disappointed. I felt like, I guess, when the season is over, I know there is time to reflect and everything on what happened and what ifs. I guess disappointment. It's no fun going home before you want to, regardless of what's happened. I think the world of the guys in that clubhouse and the effort and things like that. I want to keep playing."
And John Lackey, who was part of a tradition of near constant postseason appearances with the Angels, wishes he could keep pitching.
"It's been a while," said Lackey. "It's going to be different, being home for the first round, for sure. This is only the third time for me in my nine years [in the Majors]."
In the end, this just wasn't Boston's year.
"You know, this is one of those years where everything seems to go in the wrong direction, and I guess this team's just got to get prepared for next year and make it happen," Ortiz said.
As much of a baseball fan as Ortiz is, he isn't looking forward to the feeling of turning on his television next month and seeing other teams playing.
"I'm not going to lie to you," Ortiz said. "My first year here not going to the playoffs it feels like you have so much time, you know, watching the game on TV -- it just feels totally weird. I'm pretty sure this year's going to be the same way."