BALTIMORE -- One night after deliverance, darkness.
That’s what happens when you’ve traded in the security of a nine-game lead 24 days ago for the suspense of trying to hang on in the final days.
The mantra, “We control our own destiny,” no longer applies to the Boston Red Sox. It ended with a jolt, the ball popping out of Jacoby Ellsbury’s glove as the Red Sox center fielder crashed into the wall while Robert Andino circled the bases for a three-run, inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning of a 6-3 loss to the Orioles.
The Tampa Bay Rays, behind 8 2/3 strong innings from ace James Shields, beat the New York Yankees, 5-2, to draw into a tie for the wild card with the Red Sox. They are angling to join the company of such teams as the Miracle Braves and Mets, though the Miracle of the Trop doesn’t sound quite as poetic as the Miracle of Coogan Bluffs.
And there’s nothing lyrical whatsoever about the sound of the Sacking of the Sox, who ran out their purported ace, Josh Beckett, only to see him give up six runs in back-to-back starts for the first time this season. The Red Sox are now looking directly into the same abyss that previously consumed the ’51 Dodgers, ‘64 Phillies, ’69 Cubs, ’78 Red Sox and ’07 Mets, teams that took the Perp Walk of Shame after epic collapses.
Silent John W. Henry, who hasn’t been heard from at all during this hellacious month, is liking soccer more each day.
The Red Sox loaded the bases in the eighth and did not score. Dustin Pedroia singled home a run in the ninth, and the Sox had the tying run at the plate in the ninth, but Adrian Gonzalez flied out to left and Jed Lowrie, who had homered earlier, went down swinging against Orioles closer Jim Johnson.
The last-place Orioles have won four of five from the Red Sox in the span of eight days. Boston's hopes now rest on a gimp -- sore-kneed Erik Bedard -- and Jon Lester, pitching on three days’ rest for only the second time in his career.
They can also pray for deliverance by the Yankees, a most distasteful proposition for hard-core Sox fans.
In the event the Sox and Rays tie, a one-game playoff will be held in The Trop on Thursday.