It was almost fitting that the final Red Sox game of a miserable season ended in a rout.
Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each hit a pair of homers, powering the New York Yankees past Boston 14-2 on a raucous Wednesday night in the Bronx for their 13th AL East title in 17 years.
The loss sent Boston to its worst record (69-93) since the 1965 team lost 100 games and could cost Bobby Valentine his job after just one year as manager.
"Very disappointing season," Valentine said. "Extremely disappointing."
Valentine brought the lineup card out to the umpires for what might have been the final time. Then the Red Sox went out and lost for the eighth straight time, their longest skid since losing nine in a row in 2001. Boston dropped 26 of its last 33 games.
The often outspoken manager was signed to a two-year deal to help revive a club that was eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the 2011 season after a September collapse. Instead, because of injuries, a lack of pitching depth and underperformance, Boston finished last for the first time since 1992.
Before the game, general manager Ben Cherington would not discuss Valentine's status, saying it will be addressed after the season, but he did express regret for the way the year went, his first since replacing Theo Epstein.
"As I've said before, we're nowhere near where we want to be," Cherington said. "On a personal level, I've been here 14 years, and we've had some highs and some lows and this is certainly a low. I take it personally."
Looking ahead, Cherington said the team has talked to injured David Ortiz and outfielder Cody Ross, both potential free agents, about returning.
"David is a priority, and we've talked to Cody Ross also," Cherington said. "I'm not going to comment any more other than that, just to say we're talking to those guys. David is someone that we feel strongly about bringing back, and we're trying to figure out a way to do that. Cody fit in well and had a good year. It's an area of need going forward."
Making his first start since Sept. 19, Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-7) gave up Granderson's three-run homer in the second inning after Ross gave Boston a 1-0 lead with an RBI single. Cano then connected in the third for a 5-1 lead.
"Daisuke gave up those runs early and we had to try to catch up the whole time," Valentine said. "It's probably the best I've seen Daisuke throw, but it just wasn't good enough. They were swinging the bats real well."
One batter later Matsuzaka was finished, most likely ending his six-year career with Boston. The Red Sox paid $51.1 million to win the rights to the Japanese star and gave him a $52 million contract. Matsuzaka went 33-15 in his first two years, winning a World Series in 2007. But injuries, including elbow-reconstruction surgery June 2011, marred the last four years and he finished the deal 50-37.
"I didn't expect my six years to end the way it did," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "It has been really hard on me mentally for a while now."
Afterward, Valentine spoke with the team.
"As I told them, they're not defined as people by their record or the season," he said. "They're defined by who they are, not what they are. This was that they were part of a really lousy season, but they gave a hell of an effort every day, in and out."
In front of fans poised to party from the first pitch on the final night of the regular season, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of Boston to win their second consecutive division crown. The championship was locked up by the seventh inning, when Baltimore's 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay went final and prompted a huge ovation from the 47,393 in attendance.
Alex Rodriguez stepped out of the batter's box, and several players high-fived and hugged in the dugout while coaches shook hands.
"This year we had to fight, scratch and claw," Nick Swisher said.
The subdued celebration didn't really start until Freddy Garcia struck out Ivan De Jesus looking to end it. Players hugged and slapped fives on the field and put on their AL East champion shirts.
"Now the real season starts," Derek Jeter said.
Cano went 4 for 4 and tied a career high with six RBIs as New York (95-67) finished two games ahead of Baltimore and secured home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. The Yankees will open on the road Sunday against the winner of Friday's wild-card game between Baltimore and Texas.
"To have the best record and not know where you're going is strange," manager Joe Girardi said.
New York led the division by 10 games on July 18 but the pesky Orioles caught up on Sept. 4 and were tied with the Yankees after 10 different days in September. Many players credited Girardi with keeping the clubhouse calm.
"He's very even-keeled," Granderson said. "You never see him get too excited or down."
New York rode the long ball all season and the four homers in the finale set a franchise record at 245.
Hiroki Kuroda (16-11) shut down Boston with an encouraging performance after struggling through much of September. He allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings. Cano hit his 33rd homer in the fifth, followed by Alex Rodriguez's double, A-Rod's first extra-base hit since Sept. 14.
As the Yankees celebrated on the field, the Red Sox streamed into the clubhouse and quickly packed up. Dustin Pedroia did not speak to reporters. Jacoby Ellsbury wasn't around when the media was allowed access. Ortiz hugged several teammates and Cherington went stall to stall to shake hands with each player still in the room.
"It was a long year and we battled. It wasn't good for anybody," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "It was one of those years that we're just going to try to forget about and come back next year and play hard."
This program aired on October 4, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.