NEW YORK — They have clinched it all now; the Full Monty of Bad. And we don’t mean Monty Montgomery.
The moribund Red Sox did not roll over like dogs Tuesday night. They put up a fight, which has been rare since August. But they still lost to the Yankees, 4-3, in 12 innings. Wednesday night they play Game No. 162 and then we wait for Bobby Valentine to be fired.
The Sox clinched the cellar late Tuesday in the Bronx. They are officially the last-place Red Sox of 2012. They have lost seven in a row, 12 out of 13. They are 25 games out of first place. They are 23 games under .500. They are the worst Boston baseball team in 47 years. Oh, and remember the 7-20 record of last September? That’s now what we call, “the good old days.’’ The 2012 Red Sox are 7-21 since Sept. 1.
In the immortal words of the late Ned Martin . . . “Mercy.’’
Wednesday night the Sox turn their eyes to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who’ll also be making his final appearance in a Boston uniform. The image of Dice-K wrapping up his $103 million stint is of little comfort to the Baltimore Orioles, who trail the Yankees by one game in the American League East.
The good news is that the Sox lost Game 161 with honor. It was not the disgrace of Game 160 Monday night when Bobby V. trotted out a Triple A lineup that did not include Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia.
Pedroia was on the pine because he broke his ring finger (left hand) in Baltimore over the weekend.
Ellsbury was on the bench because Bobby apparently decided Ells is a platoon player — not good enough to bat against ace lefty CC Sabathia. The rollover Sox fell behind, 9-0, and were thrashed, 10-2.
Pedroia and Ellsbury were back in the lineup Tuesday night. And both played well.
Ellsbury led off the game with a single and scored on a double by Pedroia. Pedroia came home with the second run and the Sox held the lead until Andrew Bailey spit it up in the ninth (in a particularly pathetic performance, Bailey had to be lifted with the bases loaded in the ninth. This is your closer?). Ellsbury made a terrific catch of a long smash by Alex Rodriguez in extra innings.
It was a surprise to see Pedroia in the lineup after the Sox announced he was done for the year. My theory is that Pedroia threatened to quit if they wouldn’t let him play. He seems sufficiently embarrassed by all that is going on around him.
“I don’t want to not play if I’m able to,’’ said the former MVP.
“That’s basically it. It’s no big deal. I want to play. I want to be out there for the guys. Yesterday was tough. We got our butts kicked. We’ve got a lot of young guys on our team. Sometimes you get nicked up. It’s part of the job. You slide into bases and get your finger stepped on.
“They know I’m going to be out there and they should be out there, too, if it happens to them. It’s a team.’’
That sounded like thinly veiled code for, “Ellsbury should have been out there against CC Sabathia.’’
I asked Pedroia if he was talking about Ellsbury. He wouldn’t bite.
“He’s been beat up, man,’’ said Pedroia. “He’s had his share of injuries this year. This year’s been tough on a lot of guys. He doesn’t have to answer anything about that.’’
So you are telling us not to go there?
“Yeah,’’ said Pedroia. “Don’t go there. He’s fine.’’
I caught up with Ellsbury to check with him.
Trust me when I tell you that this is not easy. Ellsbury is the more elusive than Devin Hester.
Spotting Ellsbury in the tunnel by the indoor batting cage on the third base side, I took the charge.
Jacoby, got a second?
Sure, what do you got?
You not playing last night . . . was that your call or Bobby’s call?
You get hammered for this a lot. We see that you are not in there and you get crushed. Do you think that’s fair?
What do you mean?
You get extra attention when you don’t play. It’s late in the year, these games mean something to the Orioles and Yankees and you are not in there.
I mean, he makes out the lineup. I hadn’t even looked at anything. I wasn’t aware of that.
Did you want to play yesterday?
I always want to play.
When did you find out?
I don’t know the exact time. I get here early. When the lineup goes up.
OK, but you know our town. We jump ugly with this stuff. We say that you’re not a gamer. Do you feel any need to defend yourself on that at all?
I’m going to finish out the year, these final two games, and then go from there. I don’t get caught up in the back-and-forth.
Do you wish you had played last night?
I always want to play.
And it was totally out of your hands.
I came to the field prepared to play.
OK, I’ll ask Bobby.
With our 105-second, Belichickian interview over, I went to Bobby. In his next-to-last day on the job (went by fast, didn’t it?), the manager stayed on message. He said benching Ellsbury Monday was his decision. He said he preferred more righties against Sabathia. He reminded us that Boston’s substitute center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin, had two hits in the eight-run loss.
Any concern about perceptions, the integrity of the game?
“I was playing a team that was going to give us a good chance to win,’’ said Valentine. “It’s a big center field. Lin’s a good defensive player. Ells really hasn’t hit that well against lefthanders . . . Clay [Buchholz] was going to give us a chance to win by pitching well. Our offense wasn’t going to outmatch them. We had to outpitch them. A little defense would have helped. So, that’s that. Thank you.’’
The Sox lost with a little dignity Tuesday night.
“I thought it was in the cards when Loney homered [James Loney’s solo shot gave the Sox a 3-1 lead in the ninth],’’ said Valentine. “But obviously it doesn’t matter what I think.’’
No it does not. But it will be over soon. For Dice-K. For Bobby. For all of us.