BALTIMORE — The first pitch at Camden Yards came at 7:06 p.m. on Saturday. Before three minutes had passed, the game had lost most of its significance for the Red Sox.
In Seattle, the Mariners wrapped up a victory against the Oakland Athletics and that clinched the best record in the American League for the Sox.
The top-seeded Sox will host the wild-card winner on Friday at Fenway Park for Game 1 of the Division Series The Red Sox will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
The news spread quickly through the Red Sox dugout but there was still a game to play. The Orioles scored twice in the eighth inning to beat the Sox, 6-5.
The Sox had 14 hits, four by Daniel Nava, and carried a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. Junichi Tazawa, who had pitched a perfect seventh inning, allowed singles by Matt Wieters and Danny Valencia.
Lefthander Franklin Morales was next out of a busy Red Sox bullpen and struck out Nick Markakis. Morales then left a curveball over the plate that Steve Pearce ripped down the left-field line for a two-run double. Pearce had three RBIs in the game.
Tazawa has allowed six runs on 10 hits over 8⅓ innings in 11 appearances this month. He has been a solid set-up man for much of the season but is somewhat of a question mark going into the postseason.
Jim Johnson finished off the Red Sox in the ninth inning for his 49th save. He has 100 over the last two seasons.
Mike Napoli singled with two outs before Quintin Berry stole second. Jonny Gomes worked the count full against Johnson and took a curveball that was called a strike by umpire Bill Welke.
Gomes flipped his helmet off in disgust as he walked up the first-base line.
The Sox are fortunate that Baltimore has been eliminated from the postseason. Baltimore is 10-8 against the Sox this season and 23-13 since the start of the 2012 season.
The Sox are 97-64 with one game to play. They have not won 98 games in a season since 2004.
Jon Lester was erratic in his final start of the regular season, giving up four runs on nine and two walks over five innings and 97 pitches. Brian Roberts had a solo homer and Pearce an RBI double for Baltimore.
Lester dominated the Orioles over the first seven seasons of his career, but he was 1-2 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts this season.
Lester finished 15-8 with a 3.75 earned run average over 33 starts and a career-high 213⅓ innings.