Red Sox lose but clinch wild card when Angels beat Rangers
Some were packing up, heading home to see family and friends. Some headed for a drink and a seat by a television. Some were staying in the players’ lounge, sitting with teammates as Fenway Park emptied, waiting for the results of a game 3,000 miles away.
Nothing was decided on the field for the Red Sox last night, an early deficit giving way to a late-game comeback, giving way to a Kevin Youkilis strikeout looking with the winning runs on base to end the game. It was an 8-7 loss to the Blue Jays, the fifth straight for the Sox, the seventh in their last nine games, and their clinching of a postseason spot still was hanging in the balance as the home clubhouse became deserted.
But the wait into the late hours was worth it when the Angels beat the Rangers, 5-2, in Anaheim, Calif., clinching a wild-card berth for the Red Sox.
“It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you’re in,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, who went home to put his son to sleep and returned to the park to watch the game with his teammates. “Obviously the [Sox’] 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,’’ Pedroia said. “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.’’
“We’d like to play better,’’ Pedroia added. “Win some more games. The last few games haven’t been good, but we’ll be all right. We’re excited to get in the playoffs, and make a run at everything.’’
“We play from the first day of spring training, this is the goal,’’ Mike Lowell said. “I know it wasn’t the ideal thing. 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 1. I think we’ve got our team where we want it to be and we’re excited.’’
Asked what the celebration was like in the clubhouse, Lowell said, “It’s wet.’’ Players estimated about 85-90 percent of the team remained for the celebration or left and returned.
Reporters were not allowed in the clubhouse after the Sox had clinched. Four players - Pedroia, Lowell, Jason Bay, and Tim Wakefield - were brought out to speak with the approximately 30 remaining reporters at 1:30 a.m. outside the clubhouse as the celebration raged.
“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.’’
Lowell was asked about the condition of Jonathan Papelbon in the celebration. “He’s probably in a thong right now, with goggles and drinking Budweiser,’’ he said.
Home runs left Fenway at an astounding rate, flying out over the Green Monster, out to center field, out to right. But early-on they all had come from the Blue Jays - who had six total - as the Sox watched Clay Buchholz, one of their steadier pitchers over the past couple of months, disintegrate. The Jays had eight runs after seven innings, and led, 8-2.
Then something changed. It happened, finally, in the eighth inning against the Toronto bullpen, starting with a line single by Jacoby Ellsbury. And it built from there, even though Victor Martinez hit into the fourth double play of the night.
No matter. Youkilis hit an RBI double. Then David Ortiz hit an RBI double to the base of the wall by the bullpen, coming within feet of his 29th home run. After a Bay walk, there were two men on for J.D. Drew.
Drew sent one over the bullpen, producing three runs. The Sox had made up five runs and remained just one behind.
They had a chance in the ninth, too. With Ellsbury on first, Pedroia drove a ball toward the bullpen in right-center that looked ticketed for some empty real estate, but it was caught. Then, after Ellsbury stole second and Martinez walked, Youkilis was caught looking to end the game.
“Had that feeling,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Actually thought Pedey’s ball had a chance to find some grass out there. Then when you get Youk up, we have speed on the bases, we have a great hitter up. Just fastball froze him.’’
Three of the four Jays home runs in the first three innings off Buchholz came on changeups. While the Sox were busy hitting singles early, Toronto was hitting bombs off Buchholz, scoring four times in the first and getting one each in the second and third.
The six homers (Buchholz gave up five, Takashi Saito one) were the most off Boston pitching in a game since Detroit hit seven in a game in 2004. Buchholz allowed seven runs on eight hits over his five innings. It began on the first pitch, which Jose Bautista hit out to left, and continued with three bombs by Adam Lind, two of his off Buchholz. Five of the six Toronto homers were solo.
“Lot of home runs,’’ Francona said. “First pitch of the game gets whacked, OK. Then they faced him quite a few times this year. Thought they were sitting soft, especially late in the count. I thought they did a good job of picking out one speed with Buch. He was elevating a little bit. They hit it a long way.
“That’s a tough way to play, down that much. It’s happened a couple nights in a row.’’
Yet after the game was all over, it ended up a good night after all.