BOSTON — The Red Sox’ ticket still hasn’t been punched.
The Red Sox had an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth Wednesday, but they squandered too many opportunities, and the Orioles grabbed a 5-3 win in 12 innings. The bearded Fenway Faithful will have to wait another night to celebrate.
Boston’s magic number to secure a playoff spot dropped to one on Wednesday after the Indians’ 7-2 loss to the Royals. In all likelihood, the Red Sox will take care of business in the coming days, and Thursday’s loss simply delayed the inevitable. But it was still a frustrating loss for Boston because the game was there for the taking.
“We gave ourselves plenty of opportunities,” manager John Farrell said. “Men in scoring position, they would make a key pitch. We grounded into four double plays. A lot of good things went on in this game. I thought overall offensively, we put a number of guys on base, but they made a key pitch in a key moment. Ground-ball double plays speak to that. They get a ground ball straight at a guy.”
The Red Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when David Ortiz launched a majestic two-run homer into about the 10th row in right field. It was Ortiz’s 28th homer of the season, and it helped put Tuesday’s loss in the rearview mirror. The Red Sox squandered a golden opportunity in the third inning, though, and it set the tempo for the rest of the evening.
Dustin Pedroia singled into center field to lead off the bottom of the third, and Shane Victorino reached on a bunt single up the first base line. Ortiz then hit a rocket that was too hot for Chris Davis to handle, and Boston had the bases loaded with nobody out. But rather than deliver the knockout blow, the Red Sox let Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles off the ropes. Mike Napoli lined out to short, and Jonny Gomes bounced back to the mound to start a 1-2-3 double play.
The Orioles tied things at two apiece in the fifth inning when Matt Wieters and Brian Roberts delivered a pair of RBI doubles, and they grabbed a 3-2 lead when Wieters added another RBI double in the sixth inning. Napoli answered with a big solo homer to dead center field to tie the game, but it was clear that the Red Sox should have been in control at that point.
“It was a tough one. We grinded it out [but] just didn’t get that big hit against Chen and break it open. I gotta do a better job of holding that lead, no other way to it,” said Jake Peavy, who gave up three runs over seven innings. “That was real close to seven [or] eight scoreless, and I just let it get away from me a little bit there.”
The game remained tied 3-3 until the 12th inning despite the Red Sox putting the leadoff man on in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings. In the 11th, the Red Sox had the speedy Quintin Berry in scoring position with one out, but he failed to score amid some questionable decision-making.
Mike Carp led off the 11th with an infield single, as Roberts failed to make a play on a slow roller to second base. Farrell called upon Berry to pinch run but decided against trying to have him steal. Instead, Farrell had Daniel Nava bunt Berry up to second base. It was a decision that played right into Baltimore’s hands.
The Orioles opted to intentionally walk Will Middlebrooks with one out and first base open following Nava’s sac bunt. That set up a lefty-lefty matchup between T.J. McFarland and Stephen Drew — with Drew entering the at-bat 0-for-6 with five strikeouts in his career against McFarland. Drew hit into an inning-ending double play to end the threat and send the game into the 12th.
“With the left-hander on the mound and as well as Wieters throws, we’re not looking at a straight steal there,” Farrell said. “We’re trying to get some speed on the basepaths. Nava lays down the bunt, but that’s why we’re looking to get it right there. [Berry’s] got obviously more foot speed than Carp in that situation, so it’s going to be game-to-game where he’s used.”
Franklin Morales was one strike away from keeping the score tied in the 12th, but Davis delivered a two-out, two-run single into center field to give Baltimore a 5-3 edge that it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Red Sox compiled 15 hits in Wednesday’s losing effort, which is their most in a loss since Aug. 25, 2012. The three runs are the Red Sox’ fewest in a game in which they had at least 15 hits since May 22, 1983.
Wednesday’s loss wasn’t a back-breaker for Boston, by any means. But that ticket to the postseason is really starting to burn a hole in the Red Sox’ pocket.