Spiders - 010 030 000 - 4 8 0The celebration will be delayed an additional night.
Red Sox - 001 010 100 - 3 12 0
It's small consolation on a night when the Red Sox squandered numerous scoring chances -- bases loaded/one out in the seventh and 2nd/3rd in the bottom of the ninth -- and left 12 men on base, but the only thing worse than leaving guys on base is not having guys to leave on base.
In the seventh inning, Kevin Youkilis's one-out double high off the Wall brought the Red Sox to within one run at 4-3. After Jason Bay was walked intentionally to load the bases, Rafael Betancourt got Jed Lowrie looking at strike three and retired Mark Kotsay on a routine fly to left.
Earlier in the evening, the Red Sox had left men at second and third in both the first and third innings. A baserunning blunder by Jason Varitek killed a rally in the sixth. Tek was on first and Bay was at second with two outs. Jeff Bailey ripped a single down the left field line that struck the 3B umpire. As Cleveland 3B Jamey Carroll went after the ball, Bay rounded third and tried to get back. He would have been safe, but suddenly Varitek appeared. Replays showed Varitek racing around second and on to third, even with the entire play in front of him. Bay was tagged out in a rundown for the third out.
Facing Jensen Lewis in the bottom of the ninth, Dustin Pedroia looked at two strikes, then fanned. David Ortiz, who crushed a solo dong into the Sox bullpen in the fifth, lined out to right on Lewis's first pitch. One out from defeat, Youkilis singled to right-center and Bay followed with a double into the left field corner. Youkilis held at third -- and watched as Lowrie struck out on three pitches to end the game.
Beckett (6-7-4-1-6, 105) hit a rough patch in the fifth, allowing three runs on four hits and a wild pitch. However, the first run he allowed, back in the second, was complete horseshit. After getting two easy groundouts, Ben Francisco doubled. Beckett then hit both Ryan Garko and Kelly Shoppach with inside pitches. Neither batter made any attempt to get out of the way -- and under Rule 6.08(b), home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman should not have allowed either Cleveland player to go to first base.
This rule is never enforced (has anyone seen an umpire refuse to grant an HBP?), but it's in the book. So after the two HBPs, the bases were loaded. Beckett's 2-1 pitch to Asdrubal Cabrera was over the heart of the plate and at the level of Cabrera's gut. That is pretty much right through the exact heart of the strike zone. Dreckman called the pitch a ball. Beckett's next offering was ball four -- and a run scored.
P.S. Shoppach tried to get hit again in the sixth. Beckett's 0-2 pitch was inside, and Shoppach tried to drag his left elbow through the upper part of the strike zone. He was unable to get his arm in the path of the baseball -- and he was called out on strikes.
Down in Baltimore, Tampa Bay beat the Orioles 4-2. The Rays upped their lead in the East to 2.5 and cut their magic number for clinching the division to 5.
Can the Red Sox still win the East? If Tampa goes only 3-4 over its last seven games, Boston would have to go 6-0 to win the East. Meaning that if Tampa can manage a mere 4-3 record from now until next Sunday, Boston cannot overtake them.
Zach Jackson (6.35, 70 ERA+) / Josh Beckett (3.96, 115 ERA+)
The Red Sox can clinch a playoff spot with a victory tonight.
A win will also snuff out any chance the Yankees (idle tonight) have of winning the wild card. And it leaves the White Sox and the Twins (2.5 GB) fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Talk now turns to the ALDS roster and the pitching rotation.
Rays/Orioles at 7
East Magic #
Rays 92 62 ---
Red Sox 91 64 1.5 7
Wild Card Magic #
Red Sox 91 64 ---
Yankees 85 71 6.5 1