BALTIMORE — This is where it all ended for the Red Sox last year.
In one stunning reversal of fortune, the Red Sox went from a “99.7 percent’’ lock to make the playoffs, as Dustin Pedroia noted, to getting knocked out altogether by a stunning end-of-season loss to the Orioles. It was coupled by an even more stunning end-of-season victory by the Tampa Rays over the New York Yankees to claim the American League’s wild-card berth.
As was the case in the aftermath of last September’s collapse, the Red Sox were left to explain at Camden Yards all that’s gone wrong after Tuesday night’s 7-1 loss to the Orioles, a setback that came on the heels of an explosive Yahoo sports.com report detailing a July 26 team meeting in New York that was necessitated by a growing divide between the players and manager Bobby Valentine.
“It’s tough,’’ said Pedroia, addressing the report that cited him as a driving force behind a player-driven effort to get Valentine ousted from his job. “We had a meeting — I’ll be honest with everybody — we had a meeting in New York. And the coaches had a meeting, Bobby had a meeting, we all had a meeting, and when I spoke I said we all need to get better — that includes owners, Bobby, coaches, and especially the players.’’
Improvement was sorely lacking Tuesday night for the Red Sox (57-60), who flexed their offensive might in a 14-1 romp at Cleveland Sunday, but got only one run against the Orioles, leaving 12 men on base while going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
“We need to score more runs,’’ said catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh. “One run is not going to win a lot of games.’’
The Sox, who entered the game with an AL-leading 23-14 record against lefthanded starters, were held to one run on nine hits against Baltimore lefty Wei-Yin Chen (11-7), who allowed one walk over six-plus innings while striking out four, including Mike Aviles in his first three at-bats.
As streaks of lightning flashed overhead, Josh Beckett was treated to a thunderous chorus of boos from Sox fans among the Camden Yards crowd of 26,204 after he departed with one out in the sixth. Beckett (5-10) allowed six runs on six hits, including a pair of leadoff homers by No. 9 hitter Omar Quintanilla, who gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the third, and Mark Reynolds, who broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth.
“The home run to Quintanilla, he’s hitting ninth, but leading off the inning,’’ said Beckett, who has just one win in his last 12 starts and has given up 14 earned runs on 14 hits including five homers in his last two outings. “I’m thinking [Quintanilla’s] taking so I was trying not to lay one in there, but get ahead of him and he ambushed me,’’ Beckett said. “The one to Reynolds, I left it up and you can’t do that because he’s a big, strong guy.”
Reynolds made the Sox pay in a five-run sixth that broke open the game when he greeted reliever Mark Melancon with a towering three-run homer to left that made it 7-1. It was Reynolds’s 15th multi-homer game of his career and first since Sept. 21, 2011, when he homered twice off Beckett.
“It’d be nice to win a game, but I’ve got to pitch better,’’ Beckett said. “I can’t keep putting the guys in a hole like that.’’
After Quintanilla snapped an 0-for-6 skein vs. Beckett with his third homer of the season, the Sox responded by tying it in the fourth.
Cody Ross led off with a ground-rule double to left and went to third on Lavarnway’s ground ball out to first. Carl Crawford, who went 3 for 4 with three doubles and three RBIs in Sunday’s romp over the Indians, stroked a single to center that scored Ross to make it 1-1.
Crawford was stranded at first when Aviles struck out and Danny Valencia, making his second start for the Red Sox, flew to center to end the inning.
After he gave back a run on Reynolds’s solo shot in the fifth, Beckett seemed to unravel in the sixth.
J.J. Hardy led off with a single to left and Adam Jones drew a one-out walk. On his 84th pitch of the night, Beckett threw a wild pitch to Matt Weiters that enabled Hardy and Jones to advance to third and second.
On his 85th pitch, Beckett gave up an infield chopper that sailed high over the mound. With Aviles charging from short and Pedroia from second, Beckett “kind of got out of the way’’ and let his teammates sort things out. “I knew I had two guys coming in and I figured all I would do was get in their way,’’ Beckett said.
But Beckett watched as the ball landed beyond the mound and eluded both infielders, allowing Weiters to reach on an RBI infield hit that drove in Hardy to make it 3-1.
“We couldn’t get the big hit and the ball didn’t really bounce our way, but it did for them,’’ Pedroia said. “They got that infield hit and then a big home run. They hit the ball good with runners in scoring position and we didn’t do that.’’
On his next pitch, his 86th and last of the night, Beckett gave up an RBI single to Chris Davis that made it 4-1 and prompted Valentine to summon Melancon.
Reynolds greeted him with a towering three-run homer that put the game out of reach.
With 45 games remaining and time running out on the Red Sox, it seemed the month of August had suddenly taken on the feel of last September.
“We’ve just got to go out and play as hard as we can, that’s all you can do,’’ Pedroia said. “We’ve dug ourselves this hole and we’ve got to try and dig ourselves out of it. We’ve got to be professional and grind out at bats, play good defense, and pitch well, that’s it.’’