By Oct. 4, the worst Red Sox season in at least 15 years will be over. Wednesday’s dismal 13-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field was their 82nd defeat of the year, officially making this the first losing season for the franchise since 1997.
That was also the last time the Baltimore Orioles posted a winning record — they went wire-to-wire, in fact. Cal Ripken and the O’s burst out of the gate that season winning 20 of 29 games and never looked back, taking the AL East title and making it to the ALCS that October.
The good folks in Birdland have endured 15 consecutive losing seasons since.
That streak is over. On Wednesday night the O’s beat the Mariners 3-1 on an Adam Jones two-run homer in the 11th inning. The win came about 24 hours after an epic 18-inning win at Safeco Field. Baltimore has won each of its last 15 extra-innings games, the longest “overtime” streak in baseball since 1949.
That was Baltimore’s fourth straight win on its three-city road trip that continues in Boston on Friday night. Those wins assured the Orioles their first winning season since the ’97 campaign. The O’s flew East with the top wild card spot in the AL, and were breathing down the Yankees’ neck in the division race.
Some say all this started last September, when the O’s won five of seven meetings against the Sox and were a major part of Boston’s infamous late-season collapse. That stretch culminated with Robert Andino‘s walk-off single off Jonathan Papelbon that drove in two runs and knocked Boston out of the postseason.
It was the last pitch Papelbon ever threw with the Sox.
Now, the tables are turned. The Red Sox are floundering, some 14 games under .500. They are playing out the string. But over the next two weekends the Sox could settle a score Boston fans won’t soon forget. They could knock the O’s out of playoff contention. They could give all of us a little something positive to remember from a season that we’d all like to forget.
The misery that started last September hasn’t ended yet — it will continue to wash over us for at least another fortnight, even though there aren’t many players (five position players) on this roster left from the group that slumped off the field at Camden Yards a year ago.
You’d better believe those players remember that night. We do, too. And while going 4-2 against the O’s over the next 10 days won’t wash away the embarrassment of this season, it’ll help make these final two weeks a little more bearable.
Did the Orioles’ 2012 magic begin in those final 2011 games against the Sox? Who knows? While they posted a winning record in September, they still lost 93 games — more than the Sox will probably end up losing this season. A year later they are closing in on a playoff spot. A good reminder for fans who feel the Sox are in a hopeless position for rebuilding.
The Red Sox would do well to look at the Baltimore Orioles as a role model. Settling a little old business over the next couple of weekends would be a great place to start.
You can reach Tom Caron at @TomCaron