Not even Josh Beckett could stop the skid. The Red Sox, who have lost 14 of the last 18 games, sent their workhorse to the mound, but he gave up six runs in 7 1/3 innings and the Sox took a 6-4 loss to the Orioles in the final regular-season game at Fenway.
The Orioles came in and took three of four games from the Sox, a team clinging to a slim lead over the Rays in the wild card. At the end of a fan appreciation night, the Fenway fans booed the home team, even though there was a chance -- a fear -- it was the last time they'd see them this season.
Mark Reynolds homered twice off Beckett, a solo shot in the second inning and a two-run shot in the seventh that tied it at 4-4.
Carl Crawford went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored, coming a home run short of the cycle. But again, offense wasn’t the issue for the Sox, whose starting pitchers have given up 66 runs in the past 18 games.
Beckett, taking the mound for the second time since spraining his ankle Sept. 5, looked sharp early on.
After striking out seven through six innings, he came back out for the seventh with a two-run lead but gave up the home run to Reynolds.
The Sox used six relievers yesterday and the bullpen was cooked, so Beckett, a workhorse, came back out for the eighth, but struggled.
JJ Hardy singled and then Beckett gave up a ground-rule double to Nick Markakis before Francona took the ball from him after he had thrown 109 pitches.
Alfredo Aceves came in and gave up a two-run single to Vladimir Guerrero that gave the O's a 6-4 lead. Beckett ate the runs.
Sox starters are now 3-9 with a 6.75 ERA in the past 18 games.
Bottom of the eighth, Orioles 6, Red Sox 4: After watching the Sox go down 1-2-3, the fans at Fenway broke out the boos.
Top of the eighth, Orioles 6, Red Sox 4: Tough turnaround for the Sox. They've blown a three-run lead and wasted what was a strong start from Josh Beckett.
You could argue Beckett shouldn't have been out in the seventh or eighth (it's his second start back from the sprained ankle), but with the bullpen being what it is, Terry Francona had to use his workhorse.
After giving up two in the seventh, he gave up a single to JJ Hardy and a ground rule double to Nick Markakis before Francona took the ball from him after he had thrown 109 pitches.
Alfredo Aceves came in and gave up a two-run single to Vladimir Guerrero that gave the O's a 6-4 lead. Beckett ate the runs (6 earned in 7.1 innings).
Now the Sox have six outs to make a comeback.
Bottom of the seventh, Red Sox 4, Orioles 4:Tommy Hunter's night comes to an end after a solid 7 2/3 innings. He left with a right groin strain. Clay Rapada came on and struck out Adrian Gonzalez with a slider to end the inning.
Also, the Yankees have a 2-1 lead over the Rays in the fifth.
Top of the seventh, Red Sox 4, Orioles 4: Mark Reynolds got a hold of another one of Josh Beckett's pitches, launching it into the Monster seats for a two-run home run and tying the game.
It's obviously a sour ending to what's been a strong outing for Beckett, who's pushed through seven innings.
Alfredo Aceves is throwing in the bullpen and should the Sox regain the lead, Terry Francona said last night he hoped to get Jonathan Papelbon another opportunity to take the mound tonight to close out the game.
Bottom of the sixth, Red Sox 4, Orioles 2: Carl Crawford added a single to his collection of hits tonight, and now he's a home run away from the cycle. It's been 15 years since John Valentin did it against White Sox.
Aside: Valentin's all over the miscellaneous parts of the Sox record book. Remember, the last time the Sox turned a triple play before they did it last month, Valentin did it all by himself.
Top of the six, Red Sox 4, Orioles 2: The O's get one back on a JJ Hardy RBI single, but Beckett didn't let it get any further. He struck out Nick Markakis and Vladimir Guerrero to end the inning. That runs his strikeout total to seven.
Bottom of fifth, Red Sox 4, Orioles 1: The Sox tacked on another run after David Ortiz drove in Mike Aviles with a line drive to right field. The inning could have been bigger, though, and Dustin Pedroia's reaction after striking out to end the inning (he slammed his bat down, disgusted) said it all. With runners on first and second, he had a 3-and-1 count and took two bad swings.
Still, the Sox finally have two important things working, an offense that's scoring runs and a pitcher who's not allowing them.
Top of the fifth, Red Sox 3, Orioles 1: Josh Beckett's pitching like he's fed up. He's faced just two over the minimum tonight, he has four strikeouts, including two this past inning, and he's given the Sox something the team's other starters haven't: five crisp innings and counting.
Bottom of the fourth, Red Sox 3, Orioles 1: Carl Crawford's fueling the Sox offense tonight. He drove in two with a double off the Monster, his second extra-base hit of the night. In the past six games, he had just one extra-base hit, the double in the eight inning of a loss to the Rays Sunday.
Top of the fourth, Orioles 1, Red Sox 1: Adrian Gonzalez made a nice diving stop on a sharply-hit ball and made the throw to Josh Beckett to end the inning.
Bottom of the third, Orioles 1, Red Sox 1: The cheers for Carl Crawford after his leadoff triple were pretty loud. Then, when he crossed the plate on a Jason Varitek ground ball two batters later, they got louder.
There's some irony there. Apparently, some people took comments Crawford made last night after declining to talk to the media (he said, reportedly, "Go ask the captain") to mean that he had an issue with Varitek. He was puzzled by it in the clubhouse today, and at one point, with a couple reporters around, Varitek came up to Crawford's locker and said they've been nothing but cool with each other since Crawford arrived, putting a non-story to bed.
Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury's eats the Orioles for breakfast. His one-out single gave him a team-record 33 straight games with a hit against the O's.
Top of the third, Orioles 1, Red Sox 0: Beckett just tossed a 1-2-3 inning and it's almost certain that he's trying to go deep into the game after last night. The Sox haven't had a pitcher go more than five innings in a start and win since Beckett last Friday.
Bottom of the second, Orioles 1, Red Sox 0:Tommy Hunter sits David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Josh Reddick down in order. Arbitrary but true: Pedroia's never hit fifth in his career.
Top of the second, Orioles 1, Red Sox 0: Mark Reynolds took Josh Beckett for a long ride. He smacked a 1-and-2 pitch high over the Monster and out to the street. He has 35 homers this season, and the Sox again are playing from behind in the early going.
Bottom of the first, Red Sox 0, Orioles 0: Adrian Gonzalez took a bad swing at a 1-and-2 slider to strike out and end the inning.
Top of the first, Red Sox 0, Orioles 0: The Sox need Beckett to be a stopper. Starters have struggled for the Sox (understatement). He struck out two O's in the first.
Pregame: The Sox had their eyes on the first game of the Yankees-Rays doubleheader. David Ortiz couldn't believe he was pulling for the Yankees when Robinson Cano smacked a two-run double to give them a 4-2 win. Now they have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Rays in the wild card tonight against the O's.
It's the last home game of the season, obviously, and a few players tossed balls to fans to show appreciation. As Pete pointed out earlier, the next home game will be either Oct. 3 in Game 3 of the Division Series or April 13, 2012 against the Rays. Feel free to leave comments.