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Sox wait -- then celebrate

Posted by Amalie Benjamin  September 30, 2009 02:15 AM

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Dustin Pedroia headed the short distance home, put his six-week old son to bed, then returned to sit around the television with his teammates. Jason Bay grabbed a drink with his agent, followed the Gamecast on his phone, then he too went back to Fenway to join in a clubhouse celebration hours after the Sox had lost, again.

The clubhouse that had grown empty not long after the Red Sox lost their fifth straight game, this one coming by an 8-7 score to the Blue Jays, did not remain empty for long. It grew full as it appeared that the Angels would hang on to beat the Rangers, which they did nearly three hours after the final out at Fenway.

And then, once the Southern California score went final, the celebration began.

"I know it wasn't the ideal thing," said Mike Lowell, standing outside the clubhouse, drenched in alcohol. "You'd probably much rather do it on the field after a victory, but we battled hard all year to get to this point. I don't care how it comes. We deserve to celebrate, just like the other teams that have made the playoffs. We're excited to be here. This is hopefully Step One. I think we've got our team where we want it to be and we're excited."

It was a sentiment echoed by his teammates, who appeared glad to get a chance for the release of the celebration, no matter how they had officially reached the postseason. But there was no way to know exactly what happened in the clubhouse during the post-clinch festivities. Reporters were not allowed in, including NESN cameras, as the Sox' media relations staff rationed four English-speaking players to a group of approximately 30 remaining media members in the concourse outside the home clubhouse after 1 a.m.

Pedroia, Bay, Lowell, and Tim Wakefield -- along with Junichi Tazawa and Takashi Saito -- were brought out to speak, drenched in beer and champagne.

Asked what it was like in the clubhouse celebration, Lowell said, "It's wet." Players estimated about 85 to 90 percent of the team remained to be there for the celebration, or left and returned, where they celebrated with teammates including David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon.

"He's probably in a thong right now with goggles and drinking Budweiser," Lowell said, of Papelbon's condition at that point in the evening.

"I think it was maybe a little more subdued than walking right off the field, but at the same time, when you've got Pap on your team, it definitely isn't boring," Bay said.

But amid the merriment, there did seem to be a desire to defend their right to party, with the oddity of the situation. It was, however, not unlike the clinching celebration of almost exactly two years ago, when the Sox officially reached the postseason on a Melvin Mora squeeze bunt that gave the Orioles the win over the Yankees on Sept. 28, 2007. Of course, the Sox had won on that night.

"It doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you're in," Pedroia said. "Obviously the game was pretty intense, and we couldn't find a way to win, but it doesn't really matter how we do it, we're excited, and we can't wait for the playoffs.

"We like our chances. We have a great pitching staff, and our offense has been swinging the bat good. I know we've lost a few games in a row, but when playoff time comes, there's a lot of guys that have been through it. That's a positive."

The Sox now have a few things to set right before they fly to Anaheim, Calif., on Monday to begin the American League Division Series against the Angels. Jon Lester needs to bounce back from being smoked by a ball over the weekend in New York. Josh Beckett has to return from his back spasms and his cortisone shots. Tim Wakefield will attempt to prove he can still pitch this season tonight. And the Sox still have that five-game losing streak.

"We'd like to play better," Pedroia said. "Win some more games. The last few games haven't been good, but we'll be all right. I don't think anybody's dwelling over the last couple losses. We're excited to get in the playoffs, and make a run at everything."

So while the Sox didn't exactly know what would happen after they lost last night's game, with their magic number sticking at one, the players were asking around the clubhouse. They wanted to know what to do -- if they should stay, if there would be a celebration. The answer, to both, was yes. As Lowell said, "We came in this together, and we should celebrate together."

It also marked the sixth time in the last seven years that the Sox had made it to the postseason, and their seventh timing winning the wild card since its inception, the most of any franchise.

"That consistency is something we're really proud of," Lowell said. "I think there's a lot of expectations playing in this market that you have to reach the postseason. To meet those expectations I think you feel very satisfied, but with that being said, I don't think we want to be complacent just reaching the postseason. We want to go deep."

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