Season Over: Red Sox Meltdown, Lose To Orioles, 4-3; Rays Beat Yankees, 8-7, To Win AL Wild Card

One game, one loss, one season over. Jonathan Papelbon imploded in the ninth, allowing two runs as the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 4-3, and the Rays erased a seven run lead and beat the Yankees, 8-7, in extras to win the AL Wild Card title.

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David Ortiz: 'Not Even Close To What Happened To Us In ’03. This Is Worse'

David Ortiz has lived through heartbreak plenty of times during his Boston Red Sox career, but Wednesday night's events may have just taken the cake. Ortiz and the Red Sox blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning and lost to the Baltimore Orioles, all while the Tampa Bay Rays erased a seven-run deficit to beat the New York Yankees and clinch the AL Wild Card. Ortiz, speaking to reporters after the loss, said that it's never been worse for him. Ever.

"Not even close. Not even close to what happened to us in '03," said Ortiz. "We walked into September nine games ahead, and look where we're at right now. It can't go no worse than that. This is worse.

"I never put any attention to where we're at. ... But at one point, I was like, ‘Wait a minute - we walked into September nine games ahead.' Wow. It doesn't matter what anybody here does. That's going to stay in your head. That's not a situation you want to be facing, but you learn from that." (via WEEI)

For more Boston Red Sox coverage, visit our team page and blog, Over The Monster.

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Total Disaster: Red Sox Put Bow On One Of Baseball's Biggest Collpases

It was the best of times, it was the worst of time. On one night in late September, the Boston Red Sox incited feelings of anxiety, excitement and despair, all in a matter of hours. When it was over, the Sox were on the outside looking in. Again.

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Red Sox Lose, Rays Win, Season Comes To An End As Collapse Is Complete

The Red Sox lost, the Rays won, and now Boston and all the fans are left stunned, unsure of how to pick up the pieces.

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Yankees Vs. Rays: Evan Longoria, Rays Close Curtain On Yanks, Red Sox

The Tampa Bay Rays are headed to the playoffs and the Red Sox are heading home.

One of the most incredible sequences in the history of baseball concluded with a Jonathan Papelbon blown save in Baltimore and an Evan Longoria line drive that snuck over the left field fence five minutes later to set off bedlam at Tropicana Field as the Rays won 8-7 in 12 innings.

The Rays rallied from a 7-0 deficit with six runs in the eighth, including a three run bomb by Longoria, and then the tying run in the ninth courtesy of a Dan Johnson home run with two outs to send the game into extra innings.

From there the game seemed to be something of a formality as Yankees manager Joe Girardi stuck with reliever Scott Proctor. But, Proctor showed poise and was able to keep the Rays off the scoreboard for 2.2 innings and gave the Yankees their best chance in the top of the 12th.

With nobody out, the Yankees had runners on the corners and seemed assured of getting at least one run across, but Greg Golson was caught in no mans land on a slow roller down the third baseline. Undecided on whether to run home or go back to third Golson was tagged out and the major crisis was averted for the Rays. Reliever Brandon Gomes quickly got the final two outs to set up Longoria’s heroics in the bottom of the inning.

The win coupled with a Red Sox meltdown 500 miles north in Baltimore allowed the Rays to clinch one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history. The Rays trailed the Sox by nine games just four weeks ago and rallied to win the Wild Card outright with no playoff needed.

The Rays will open the playoffs in Texas against the defending American League Champion Rangers on Friday.

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Yankees Vs. Rays: Rays Get Even In Ninth, Still Tied After 11

We’re all tied up in Tampa Bay.

After trailing 7-0 at one point during the game, the Rays rallied for six runs in the eighth inning, and then with two outs in the ninth and the bases empty, pinch hitter Dan Johnson crushed a 2-2 fastball into the right field bleachers to tie the game and send the crowd at Tropicana Field into a frenzy.

In the 10th, both teams were able to get a runner aboard via a walk, but were unable to advance the runners thanks to some strong performances on the mound by Kyle Farnsworth (Tampa) and Scott Proctor (New York).

In the 11th, the Yankees went 1-2-3, but the Rays had runners at first and second with one out and were unable to push across the winning run.

The Rays need to win this game in order to guarantee themselves at least a tie for the Wild Card. In the event of a tie, a one game playoff would decide the winner of the final playoff spot. That game would be Thursday afternoon at 4pm.

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Red Sox 3, Orioles 2, End 8: Sox One Inning Away From Huge Win

Putting aside, for a moment, all of the terrible things that have just gone on in Tampa Bay, the Red Sox are one scoreless inning away from a 3-2 win that would, at the very least, secure their spot in a one-game playoff against the Rays--if not more.

The Sox looked like they might be in trouble with Alfredo Aceves having to warm up again after an hour-and-a-half rain delay. The invaluable reliever was wild to start the bottom of the seventh, hitting two of the first three batters he faced. But a big strikeout of Red Sox killer Robert Andino and a ground out by J.J. Hardy gave the Sox the outs they needed to end the inning.

The top of the eighth held some promise for an insurance run, but a baserunning mistake would end up costing the Sox. With Marco Scutaro at first, Carl Crawford sent a fly ball to left-center field which a diving Nolan Reimold could not come up with. But, having had to stop and wait to see if the ball would fall in, Scutaro was too slow to make it all the way home, and ended up being thrown out. 

From there, it was Daniel Bard's game to lose, but the setup man ended up coming through, albeit with some loud fly balls, recording a 1-2-3 inning to send the Sox into the ninth, where they'll just need Jonathan Papelbon to be Jonathan Papelbon.

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Yankees Vs. Rays: Rays Get Six in Eighth, Pull Within 7-6

The Tampa Bay Rays have life in the race for the American League Wild Card! After eight innings from Tropicana Field, the Rays have pulled to within a run at 7-6.

After David Price was shelled for six runs in four innings and the offense managing just two hits through six innings, the bats awakened in the eight for the Rays as they scored six runs, highlighted by Evan Longoria’s three run home run off Yankees reliever Luis Ayala.

The Yankee’s “pitcher by committee” strategy had been highly effective through the first seven innings thanks to strong outings from Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett and Aaron Laffey. But, in the pivotal inning, the wheels came off when Andrew Brackman, Ayala and Boone Logan struggled with control.

The first two runs came via walks to Sam Fuld and Sean Rodriguez, BJ Upton hit a sacrifice fly with the bases load, and then Longoria cleared the remaining base runners with one swing.

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Yankees Vs. Rays: Yanks Cruising 7-0 Through Six Innings

Through six complete innings, the New York Yankees are on cruise control thanks to a Mark Teixeira grand slam back in the second inning and a strong group pitching performance from a platoon of relievers.

The Rays came into the game tonight hoping to swipe the Wild Card out from underneath the Red Sox tonight, but after surrendering five early runs, the only thing the Rays can do is hope for help from Baltimore.

The Rays have just two hits in the game through six innings (two ingles from catcher Casey Kotchman) and only seven base runners, none of whom has reached third base.

Rays starter David Price is on the hook for the loss after struggling with his control and surrendering six runs (five earned) in four innings of work. Reliever Juan Cruz gave up a home run in the fifth inning to account for the other New York run thus far.

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Red Sox 3, Orioles 2, End 6: Red Sox Survive Through Six On Big Double Play

The Red Sox have survived through a troublesome sixth inning thanks to a big double play in what is increasingly becoming Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro’s game.

With the Orioles finally getting a 1-2-3 inning in the top-half of the sixth, Jon Lester came back out ready to go for a rare Red Sox quality start. At first, it didn’t seem like it was going to happen. Lester would walk the first two batters he saw, setting up the Orioles with a big opportunity with Vlad Guerrero coming to the plate.

Then, for the second straight inning, Marco Scutaro took over the game on defense. Guerrero hit a ground ball back up the middle, and it took every bit of range in Scutaro just to get to it. Off-balance, Scutaro flipped the ball straight out of his glove to Dustin Pedroia at second, who snagged the low toss, spun, and fired to first to complete the twin killing. While Lester would allow another walk afterward, a ground out from Adam Jones meant the lead was safe for at least another inning.

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Red Sox 3, Orioles 2, End 5: Dustin Pedroia's Solo Shot Puts Red Sox On Top

It’s been a tough September for Dustin Pedroia, but the former MVP has come through in a big way Wednesday night.

The big hit came, as most of Pedroia’s do, on a high fastball. Taking that nearly shoulder-level swing that Red Sox fans are so accustomed to seeing, Dustin Pedroia hooked the fastball long and very far to left field, putting the Red Sox back on top with a solo shot in the fifth.

From there, it was just a matter of holding the lead in the bottom half. But after a leadoff double, that was far from a sure thing. With the runner moving to third on a ground ball out, the Orioles were just one fly ball away from knotting things at three. But with the infield in, Marco Scutaro found Ryan Lavarnway on Nolan Reimold’s ground ball, and Lavarnway’s glove found Mark Reynolds at home for the out.

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Yankees Vs. Rays: Rays Trailing 6-0 After Four

After a grand slam home run by the Mark Teixeira, the Yankees had a 5-0 lead after two innings and things began to look bleak for the Tampa Bay Rays in their quest to clinch the Wild Card tonight. After four innings, things aren’t looking much better as the Yanks have added another run to take a 6-0 lead.

Tampa has struggled to get its offense going thus far with just one hit and three base runners to their name.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has decided that rather than using one of his regular starters for tonight’s game, he would use a series of relievers, and through four innings, the Yanks are already on their third pitcher.

Dellin Betances started the game and gave up just one hit and two walks through two innings. George Kontos and Aaron Laffey combined to shut down the Rays in the third and fourth.

On the other side, David Price has struggled badly for the Rays surrendering six runs (five earned) on six hits in his four innings of work. Price also had trouble with his control, throwing 28 pitches in the first inning, and 97 through four.

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Red Sox 2, Orioles 2, End 4: Red Sox Tie The Game On A Balk

If it weren’t for what followed, Alfredo Simon’s fourth inning balk could have been quite the point of controversy.

With Marco Scutaro hitting a one-out double and moving to third on a Carl Crawford ground out, the Red Sox needed Mike Aviles to get a hit, or at least reach base to get Jacoby Ellsbury a shot.

Or so they thought.

Instead what they got was a balk from Simon, bringing home a celebrating Marco Scutaro and tying the game without another hit. Normally, given the importance of this game, that would be a huge event—the sort deserving of plenty of talking-head attention should the Sox eventually win. Luckily, though, Mike Aviles would end up singling, making it something of a moot point.

Jon Lester, meanwhile, has returned to form after allowing the 2-run shot in the last inning, retiring the Orioles in order to preserve the Red Sox’ new-found tie

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Red Sox 1, Orioles 2, End 3: Sox Start The Scoring, But J.J. Hardy Gives Orioles The Upper Hand

The Red Sox and Orioles both scored in the third inning, but it was one big swing from shortstop J.J. Hardy that gave Baltimore the upper hand.

First up came the Red Sox, who saw the first three batters in Aviles, Ellsbury, and Pedroia all reach base, with Pedroia’s single up the middle putting the first run of the game on the board. Unfortunately, the first-and-second with zero outs situation would provide not a single run more. David Ortiz grounded into a double play to bring the Sox down to one last out, and after an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez and a long battle against Ryan Lavarnway, Alfredo Simon got the Red Sox’ young catcher swinging at an outside breaking ball for the third out.

That’s a pitch that Lavarnway is going to have to learn to lay off as the years go by, but for now, the Sox just don’t have the time to spare.

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Yankees Vs. Rays: Price Loses Control Early, Yankees Lead 5-0 After 2

After two innings in Tampa, things are looking up for the Red Sox in their battle for the Wild Card as the Rays surrendered a second inning grand slam off of shaky starter David Price and have a 5-0 lead.

Faced with the gravity of needing to win their game against the New York Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays looked a little nervous in the first inning after an error and some wild pitching led to an unearned run for the Yankees.

But, after getting the first out in the second inning, Rays pitcher David Price loaded the bases for Mark Teixeira and then was faced with a 3-2 count. Forced to give Tex something to hit, Price left a juicy fastball right over the plate which was promptly deposited into the left center field bleachers.

If the score holds, the Red Sox would be guaranteed at least a tie in the final standings and a one-game playoff tomorrow afternoon in Tampa.

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Red Sox 0, Orioles 0, End 2: Another Scoreless Frame, Betances Shaky In Tampa

The Red Sox and Orioles are through another inning with no score.

While Lester is through two scoreless now, and in relatively short order, between the double in the first inning and a loud fly out from Matt WIeters in the second, there has been some decent contact off of him. The man that reached in the second, however, did so on a weak infield single, and then was quickly erased by way of the double play as Dustin Pedroia dug a low throw out of the dirt and made a strong throw to first to beat the slow-running Mark Reynolds.

The Sox, for their part, got a one-out single from J.D. Drew, but couldn’t do so much as move him to second as Marco Scutaro and Carl Crawford both flew out.

Meanwhile, in Tampa, New York’s starter Dellin Betances seems to think that the zone starts at the waist given how high he’s throwing everything. Then again, given that not much is hitting the zone, he might not know at all. At the very least, however, he escaped unharmed after putting two men on with one out.

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Red Sox 0, Orioles 0, End 1: Sox And Orioles TIed, Yankees Take Early Lead

The best news for the Red Sox so far tonight doesn’t even come from their game, but Tampa Bay’s, as the Yankees have taken a 1-0 lead and forced David Price to throw 29 pitches just to get out of the first.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, things are…pretty dull. David Ortiz drew a two-out walk off of Alfredo Simon in the first, but Adrian Gonzalez hit a soft liner back up the middle where Robert Andino made a routine play on it for the out. Jon Lester would have relatively similar results, giving up a double with one out to J.J. Hardy, but striking out Nick Markakis and getting a 1-pitch ground out from Vladimir Guerrero to end the threat in a hurry.

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Red Sox Vs. Orioles: Yankees-Rays Updates Every Two Innings

We’ll be updating you on the progress of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays throughout the night in addition to tonight’s Sox-Orioles game, so make sure to follow along with us! @sbnationboston

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Red Sox Vs. Orioles Lineups: Sox Turn To Lester With Season On The Line

The Red Sox will turn to Jon Lester on three days' rest in the most important game of the regular season: number 162.

While the decision by Joe Girardi to at least begin the game against Tampa Bay with his usual starters can give the Red Sox and their fans some hope that they could walk away with everything tonight, focus has to be entirely on Baltimore, and the assumption has to be that this game is a win-or-go-home situation.

In order to fulfill their end of the bargain, the Red Sox will once again turn to Ryan Lavarnway behind the plate. One day after a breakout, two-homer performance, Lavarnway will bat fifth against the right-handed Alfredo Simon. While Lavarnway has always been noticeably better against lefties during his minor-league career, Simon has major reverse splits, and so could prove the perfect match for Lavarnway.

Boston Red Sox (90-71)

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  4. David Ortiz, DH
  5. Ryan Lavarnway, C
  6. J.D. Drew, RF
  7. Marco Scutaro, SS
  8. Carl Crawford, LF
  9. Mike Aviles, 3B

Baltimore Orioles (68-93)

  1. Robert Andino, 2B
  2. J.J. Hardy, SS
  3. Nick Markakis, RF
  4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
  5. Matt Wieters, C
  6. Adam Jones, CF
  7. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  8. Chris Davis, 3B
  9. Nolan Reimold, LF

Pitching Matchup: Jon Lester (15-9, 3.49 ERA) vs. Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85 ERA)

Normally seeing Jon Lester going against the Orioles would be an encouraging sight. He has, after all, dominated them throughout his career. Wednesday, however, things are different. Lester is only on three days' rest, and that for just the second time in his career. In the first, he allowed four runs in five innings. Add to that the fact that the Sox' lefty just hasn't been good of late, and it's a scary situation for Boston.

On the other hand, it's Alfredo Simon, who simply isn't very good. He's not really been terribly prone to the blow-up, but quick outings with a few earned runs on the board are fairly common place, and the Sox will be all-too-happy to get into this bullpen.

It's the most important game of the year, so the Sox will be pulling out all the stops. If Lester should struggle early, it's going to be a long night with all hands on deck--even Clay Buchholz'.

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Red Sox 8, Orioles 7: Sox Withstand Late Rally, Win On Power Of Four Homers

The Red Sox held onto their lead despite mediocre outings from Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon Tuesday night, taking advantage of four homers to knock off the Orioles and maintain their tie with the Rays in the wild card race.

The opening salvo was fired by the Orioles against Erik Bedard in the bottom of the first, as a 2-out walk from Nick Markakis and double from Vladimir Guerrero pushed the first run of the game across. 

The Sox wasted little time in striking back, and the big hit came from exactly where you would expect it. A 1-1 changeup to Jacoby Ellsbury with Marco Scutaro on base wound up in the right field seats. His 32nd homer of the year gave the Sox a 2-1 lead in the third.

Up next on the list was Ryan Lavarnway. With two men on and a 2-2 count, Lavarnway appeared to go around on a check swing, but was given a second chance by the first base umpire. He did not waste it. The next pitch was a high fastball, and Lavarnway turned on it, launching his first career homer into the stands in left field to give Boston a 5-1 lead.

In what would become an unfortunate trend, however, the lead quickly shrank. A clearly gassed Erik Bedard took the mound for his fourth inning of the game, and simply didn't have it. A ground ball single put Vladimir Guerrero on, and then a high fastball to Matt Wieters spelled disaster; the catcher cut the Orioles' deficit in half with one big swing, sending a long ball into center field to make it 5-3.

From there, though, the Sox returned to piling it on. The top of the sixth saw Carl Crawford triple, and then come in as Marco Scutaro launched his own homer to left field off of a Jason Berken curveball to extend the lead to 7-3. And while Adam Jones' solo shot would cut the lead to 7-4 in the sixth, the Sox again found a big hit from the new guy. Ryan Lavarnway's second hit of the night came on a changeup, but found its way to just about the same place, clearing the wall in left to give the catcher his second homer on the same night as his first.

Meanwhile, Alfredo Aceves had gone about his usual routine, completely saving the Red Sox after a bad start. Despite pitching in his third straight game, Aceves came in and retired batter after batter in efficient fashion, carrying the Sox all the way through the end of the seventh, recording 11 outs on just 36 pitches, allowing just one run in the process. 

Unfortunately, the parts of the bullpen that the Sox had relied on so consistently for the first five months of the season again came up empty in September. While it eventually turned out alright, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon made things far too interesting. A pair of singles and a two-out triple would lead to two runs coming in off of Bard, and a leadoff single led to another off of Papelbon. With the tying run at second, however, Papelbon would win a 10-pitch at bat against Adam Jones, getting the center fielder to ground out and keeping the Sox alive to fight another day.

 

Three For The Road

No Problems For Lavarnway

Starting behind the plate for the first time with the Sox, Ryan Lavarnway didn't exactly show any signs of trouble defensively. Zero passed balls, zero wild pitches, and the one time the Orioles tested him on the basepaths, he gunned down Adam Jones at third. He even made a nice play in the ninth to save what could have been a very weak hit. A good start for a guy that a lot of Sox fans are hoping to see back there more often in the coming years.

 

Alfredo The Invaluable

Alfredo Aceves is showing exactly why the Sox kept him out of the rotation. Appearing in three straight games, Aceves has been instrumental in both of the Sox' last couple of wins. And tomorrow? "If I wake up, I'm good," he says.

 

That Damned Soriano

Amazingly, through six innings, it looked like the Sox were actually going to luck out, and gain their wild card lead back. But Rafael Soriano gave Sox fans a reason to hate him after they'd spent the offseason (and much of the regular season) enjoying some schadenfreude over his signing. A three-run homer for Matt Joyce in the seventh inning left the Rays on top of the Yankees 5-3, and for one very short moment, on top of the wild card standings by a half-game.

 

Red Sox MVP -- Ryan Lavarnway

The top hitting prospect in the system made himself the top hitting player of the night. Two long balls in one game, including what would turn out to be the game winner? Far from wilting under pressure, Lavarnway thrived.

 

Up Next -- Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. | Jon Lester (15-9, 3.49 ERA) vs. Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85 ERA)

 Facing down an absolute must-win, the Sox will be forced to turn to Jon Lester on short rest and in the middle of a bad slump. The good news is that the only pitcher the Sox would like to see more Wednesday is Brandon Morrow. Alfredo Simon isn't particularly good, and there's no reason for the Sox not to take care of business.

Except for the fact that it's September, and these are the Sox. We can only hope that doesn't factor into things.

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Red Sox 7, Orioles 4, End 6: Long Ball Barrage Has Sox Up Late

The Red Sox are up 7-4 Tuesday night after another two more homers have added five more runs.

The first bomb came from the Sox’ biggest offensive prospect: Ryan Lavarnway. With David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez reaching base on singles, Ryan Lavarnway worked the count full against Zach Britton, perhaps getting lucky on a check swing call with two strikes. The next pitch was a high fastball, and Lavarnway didn’t mitch, launching a three-run shot into the stands in left field to give the Sox a comfortable 4-1 lead.

Unfortunately, that comfort wouldn’t last terribly long. A two-run homer from Matt Wieters in the bottom half of the fourth combined with a single and a walk was enough to chase Erik Bedard very, very early. The Sox would respond before long, however, with Marco Scutaro continuing his torrid September, taking an 0-1 curveball from Jason Berken and launching it for a two-run shot of his own.

The real savior through all this, however, has been Alfredo Aceves. After Bedard’s early disappearance, the long relief man has thrown 2.2 strong innings on relatively few pitches, allowing just a solo shot to Adam Jones despite working both of the last two games.

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Red Sox 2, Orioles 1, End 3: Red Sox Take Early Lead On Jacoby Ellsbury's Homer

It seems like there’s only one man playing for the Red Sox these days: Jacoby Ellsbury. So far, however, that’s been enough for the Boston Red Sox, who have a 2-1 lead through the first thee innings of Tuesday’s game.

First, however, the Sox found themselves behind as usual. A two-out walk by Erik Bedard would lead to a run in the first when Vladimir Guerrero followed it up with a line drive double to score the run. While he’d allow another double to lead off the second, Ryan Lavarnway caught Adam Jones trying to take third to help keep the Orioles from scoring again.

Zach Britton, meanwhile, had faced eight batters and recorded eight outs—albeit with one double play. That changed rather suddenly in the third. A two-out double from Marco Scutaro gave the Sox their second baserunner of the night, and up stepped Jacoby Ellsbury, ready to once again play the hero. A flat changeup provided him all the opportunity he needed. As the Orioles outfield stood and watched, Ellsbury’s fly ball left the park, and put the Sox on top.

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Red Sox Vs. Orioles Lineup: With Season On The Line, Sox Forced To Turn To Backups

With their season quite likely on the line, and a lefty on the mound, the Sox will turn to no less than the B-team to help them stay alive in the wild card race.

While this is certainly the sort of lineup Red Sox fans may have expected to see around the end of the season, it's for all the wrong reasons. The playoffs are far from assured, and Terry Francona is not simply resting up for October. Instead, this motley crew has been scrabbled together to deal with both injuries to starters, and the difficulties others have with lefties.

All the Sox can hope for now is some revitalizing magic.

Boston Red Sox (89-71)

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. David Ortiz, DH
  4. Jed Lowrie, 3B
  5. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  6. Ryan Lavarnway, C
  7. Darnell McDonald, RF
  8. Carl Crawford, LF
  9. Marco Scutaro, SS

Hey, look, Lavarnway is still alive!

Baltimore Orioles (68-92)

  1. Robert Andino, 2B
  2. J.J. Hardy, SS
  3. Nick Markakis, RF
  4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
  5. Matt Wieters, C
  6. Adam Jones, CF
  7. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  8. Chris Davis, 1B
  9. Nolan Reimold, RF

Pitching Matchup: Erik Bedard (5-9, 3.50) vs. Zach Britton (11-10, 4.44 ERA)

In a normal world, on a normal day, the Red Sox do what they've done to Zach Britton before and unload on the young lefty for lots of runs while Erik Bedard recovers from his defense-induced meltdown to put up a rare Red Sox quality start.

However, this is September, and these are the 2011 Red Sox. And so any prediction that doesn't include 5 innings of the Boston Bullpen and at most 5 runs for their offense is unrealistic at best.

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Orioles 6, Red Sox 3: The Rays Catch Up

Orioles 6, Red Sox 3

Boston Red Sox: 89-71

Tampa Bay Rays: 89-71

In many ways that's all that needs to be said, but since the Sox are going through the trouble of at least going through the motions, let's offer them the same courtesy.

The offense got off to a hot start that somehow was typically ice cold at the same time. The bases were loaded in the first, and then all three runners left without scoring. One run came across in the second, but perhaps only because of a fielding error by Matt Angle, whose throw to the infield was very far off target, allowing Marco Scutaro to come home from first on a glorified single.

The Orioles, of course, came back. Josh Beckett once again proved unable to hold the worst team in the AL East down, giving up a homer to Matt Wieters to tie the game in the second, and then after Jed Lowrie had put the Sox back up with a solo shot in the first, allowing the tying run to come across and loading the bases in the fifth before barely escaping even at 2-2.

Then the sixth hit, and Josh Beckett imploded. With one man on and two out, Beckett would walk Mark Reynolds, and then give up a go-ahead double to Chris Davis. Two pitches later, and Robert Andino was rounding the bases as his long fly ball led Jacoby Ellsbury directly into the center field wall, leaving him laid out on the ground as three runs scored on the inside-the-park home.

No, the Red Sox could not overcome the deficit. One lone run scored in the ninth, and two outs later the game, and the Sox' time atop the wild card standings--was over.

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Red Sox 2, Orioles 6, Mid 7: Sox Two Innings Away From Wild Card Tie

The Red Sox are just two innings away from being stuck in a wild card tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.

While James Shields has made shutting down the Triple-A Yankees look as easy as it should be, Josh Beckett once again shut down in the late going, imploding violently in the sixth inning.

First, though, there was the fifth, and with it a tie game. A leadoff single and walk put two men on, and Chris Davis’ single brought one home to score the equalizer. Beckett would load the bases, but escaped on a pop-up and a nasty hook to Nick Markakis.

He would not be so successful in the sixth. Another leadoff single put him in trouble early, but after a couple of quick outs Beckett seemed prepared to escape again. It was not to be. Beckett lost control of the strike zone, gave up a walk to Mark Reynolds, and then a double down the line in right to give the Orioles a lead. That wouldn’t have been such a disaster were the next batter not Red Sox killer Robert Andino. A long fly ball to center field sent Jacoby Ellsbury crashing into the wall, allowing the ball to drop from his glove, and giving Andino free reign to score on an inside-the-park three-run shot.

It’s 6-2 Orioles, and suddenly the playoffs seem so very out of reach.

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Red Sox 2, Orioles 1, Mid 4: Jed Lowrie's Solo Shot Has Sox Up Early

The Red Sox are ahead of the Orioles 2-1 after three-and-a-half innings Monday night.

The Sox’ offense has been on for most of the game, but once again have found themselves coming up empty in big spots. A bases loaded situation in the first resulted in no runs when Jed Lowrie flew out to left on the first pitch he saw from Tommy Hunter, and a run only managed to come across in the second inning thanks to a terrible relay to the infield on Jacoby Ellsbury’s glorified single to left. Attempting to get the ball into second base, Matt Angle airmailed one all the way to the first base line while Marco Scutaro scampered all the way home from first.

The Orioles would respond almost immediately when Josh Beckett missed on a cutter to Matt Wieters. The pitch stayed up, and the Orioles’ catcher took it deep to left to knot the score at 1-1.

That’s when Jed Lowrie came in. After an uneventful third, the Red Sox’ third baseman of the night stepped up to the plate against the right-handed Hunter in the fourth. One night after doubling and tripling against the right-handed Ivan Nova, Lowrie again flashed some uncharacteristic power from the left side of the plate. Clobbering a hanging breaking ball to right, Lowrie made up for his bases loaded failure with a solo-shot to break the 1-1 tie in favor of the Sox.

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Red Sox Vs. Orioles Lineups: Josh Beckett Takes The Mound To Open Crucial Series

The Red Sox will have their ace on the mound as they open their final series of the regular season with an eye to at least match the record of the Tampa Bay Rays over the last three games of the year.

The Sox needed all of fourteen innings Sunday night to knock off the Yankees, but for the first time in a while they looked simply...solid. The Sox received a decent start from John Lackey, came back from an early deficit, picked up fifteen hits, and left with a win after a very strong bullpen performance. In fact, for the first time in September, they managed more than five goals in a game where they didn't have a ridiculous double-digit explosion.

While I'm sure they wouldn't mind a few more goals against Tommy Hunter and the Orioles' defense, they'll be looking at least for more of the same from the starting nine:

Boston Red Sox (89-70)

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Carl Crawford, LF
  3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  4. David Ortiz, DH
  5. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  6. Jed Lowrie, 3B
  7. J.D. Drew, RF
  8. Jason Varitek, C
  9. Marco Scutaro, SS

Baltimore Orioles (67-92)

 

  1. Matt Angle, LF
  2. J.J. Hardy, SS
  3. Nick Markakis, RF
  4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
  5. Matt Wieters, C
  6. Adam Jones, CF
  7. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  8. Chris Davis, 3B
  9. Robert Andino, 2B

Pitching Matchup: Josh Beckett (13-6, 2.70 ERA) vs. Tommy Hunter (4-4, 4.86 ERA)

Josh Beckett hasn't been particularly good against the Orioles at any point this year, but his last outing was particularly bad, largely because of a slow late-inning meltdown. While it would be nice to think that the Sox could just grab six strong off of Beckett tonight, with their pen completely gassed, it's hard to imagine they'll be able to manage such a luxury.

That same start saw the Sox score four runs off of Tommy Hunter, who's now dealing with a groin injury on top of his mediocre season. If the Sox can take advantage of what is likely to be a sub-par night from a sub-par pitcher after picking up 15 hits against the Yankees, then it may not matter if Beckett isn't completely on his game.

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Red Sox Vs. Orioles: Sox Look To Wrap Up Playoff Spot In Final Series Of Regular Season

The Red Sox will face the Orioles in their final series of the regular season, needing only to match the Tampa Bay Rays' performance in order to make the postseason

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