Sox lose to Orioles but gain a half-game in playoff race
The Red Sox were booed off the field by the remnants of a sellout crowd last night as the gates of Fenway Park were closed for perhaps the final time this season.
The next game at the old ballpark could be Oct. 3 in the American League Division Series if the Sox find a way to stem their historic collapse in the next week. But this team seems to have little desire to make that happen.
For the second straight night, the Sox couldn’t hold a late-inning lead against one of the worst teams in baseball, losing, 6-4, to the Orioles.
“It’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that around here as long as I’ve been here,’’ a somber David Ortiz said. “If you would have told me in August this would happen in September, I would have laughed at you.’’
The Sox were a half-game out of first place and on pace to win 98 games Sept. 3. They since have lost 14 of 18 and are now in a desperate fight to make the postseason.
“I’ve been here nine years. We’ve never collapsed that bad,’’ Ortiz said. “Trust me, we’ve been through some tough times. But this is bad. No matter what we do, things are going to be bad. Right now it’s depressing.’’
Despite the loss, the Sox increased their lead in the wild-card race to 2 1/2 games over the Rays, who were swept in a doubleheader by the AL East champion Yankees.
Look out for the Angels. Los Angeles beat Toronto and is now tied with the Rays. The Sox are off today, then start a six-game road trip beginning in New York tomorrow.
Not even Josh Beckett could stem the slide. He took a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning and could not hold it, giving up one run in the sixth, two in the seventh, and two in the eighth.
With the score 4-4 in the eighth, J.J. Hardy singled and went to third on a double by Nick Markakis. With Beckett at 109 pitches, Sox manager Terry Francona turned to Alfredo Aceves.
Vladimir Guerrero took a strike, then ripped a fastball up the middle to drive in two runs.
Aceves was told to throw pitches off the plate against the free-swinging Guerrero and he left a pitch right over the middle.
Beckett (13-6) was charged with six runs on seven hits. Sox starters are 3-9 with a 6.75 ERA in the last 18 games.
“It’s pretty tough,’’ Beckett said. “I wish I could have done better. Things just haven’t worked out.
“I got away with some pitches early and I didn’t get away with them later on.’’
After falling behind by two runs, the Sox went in order in the eighth and ninth. Tommy Hunter and three relievers retired the final 11 Sox in order. Perseverance was in short supply.
“I’m not in a very good mood right now. We just lost a game, we’ve just lost a lot of games,’’ Francona said. “We’re going to have to fight for everything we get the rest of the way and make it happen to get where we want to go.
“We certainly haven’t made it very easy for ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t get where we want to go. But we have our work cut out for ourselves.’’
With the Sox trailing, 1-0, Carl Crawford led off the third with a triple into the right-field corner. After Marco Scutaro walked, Jason Varitek tied it up with a grounder to second base.
Adrian Gonzalez started the fourth with a single to center and took third on a double off the wall in left-center by Dustin Pedroia, who was hitting fifth for the first time in his career.
Josh Reddick grounded to first for the second out. But Crawford delivered a two-run double off the wall, giving the Sox a 3-1 lead.
The lead grew to 4-1 in the fifth on consecutive singles by Mike Aviles, Gonzalez, and Ortiz. It was the 96th RBI of the season for Ortiz. But the Sox had only one more hit in the game.
Beckett allowed a run in the sixth when Robert Andino singled, stole second, and scored on a single by Hardy.
Mark Reynolds, who had a solo homer in the second, had a two-run shot in the seventh to tie it up. From there, the game went as most have recently for the Sox, who are 5-16 in September.
“That’s a sign of a [expletive] team. Good teams don’t go 5-16 in any month,’’ said Pedroia, who sat slumped in a chair at his locker after the game, staring straight ahead in apparent disbelief.
The loss also left the Red Sox 45-36 at home, their worst record since the 2002 team was 42-39.
The Sox dropped 20 of their final 33 games at Fenway Park and were 3-7 on the last homestand.
The next game won’t be until April unless the Sox can find some answers on the road.
“Is there anything left we can try? We can play better,’’ Pedroia said.
“That’s basically it.’’