It wasn’t the way the Red Sox wanted to clinch a playoff spot. There were no on-field pileups with teammates, no clubhouse champagne showers, no donning of the swim goggles to avoid the sting of beer in their eyes.
But even though they’ve lost two straight to the Blue Jays and five straight overall, the Red Sox will take a postseason berth however they get it.
After 157 games, after months of turmoil in the rotation and after loads of lineup changes, the Boston Red Sox have made the playoffs. Despite Tuesday night’s bust of a performance from Clay Buchholz against Toronto, the Angels topped the Rangers 5-2 in Anaheim, knocking them from playoff contention and securing the Red Sox’ spot in the American League Division Series.
“It’s a little different waiting around for another game to end,” said Boston left fielder Jason Bay after a brief celebration with his teammates, “but at the same time, you get into the playoffs. And ultimately, that’s where you want to be.”
“From the first day of spring training, this is the goal,” added veteran Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. “I know it wasn’t the ideal [scenario for clinching a playoff spot]. I’d much rather do it on the field after a victory, but we’ve battled hard all year, and 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,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia chimed in. “Any time you make the playoffs, it’s a great accomplishment. And that was our goal getting into the season, so now we just have to go out there, play well and try to win a championship.”
Given the team’s recent struggles, some critics might say that the Red Sox backed their way into the postseason. But if GM Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona and the other members of the team had been offered a 90-plus-win season and a spot in the playoffs at the beginning of the season, they definitely would have accepted.
“It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you’re in,” Pedroia said. “Obviously [Tuesday’s 8-7 loss to the Blue Jays] 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 can’t wait for the playoffs.”
And reaching the postseason doesn’t ever get old, says Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
“Never, never,” said the 43-year-old righty. “There’s so much work that goes on in the offseason and into spring training with one goal in mind. And that’s to get to the postseason and win the World Series. And it doesn’t matter how you get in as long as you get in.”
In the ALDS, the Sox will face — ironically — the Angels, against whom they went 4-5 during the 2009 regular season. It’s the third straight postseason in which the Red Sox will face the Angels in the first round of the playoffs.
And despite the team’s recent difficulties, those struggles haven’t put a damper on Pedroia’s confidence looking ahead to October.
“We like our chances,” said the reigning AL MVP. “We have a great pitching staff, and our offense has been swinging the bat good. We’ve lost a few games in a row, but when playoff time comes, we have a lot of guys who’ve been through it, so I think that’s a positive.”
The ALDS will begin in Anaheim on either Wednesday, Oct. 7, or on Thursday, Oct. 8. Pitching matchups have yet to be announced.