NEW YORK — Put the champagne on ice for another day.
On a night when it looked like the Red Sox would clinch their third consecutive American League East title, Boston’s Raging Bullpen struck again and the Sox suffered a 3-2 defeat to the Yankees.
Brandon Workman and Ryan Brasier put a torch to Boston’s 1-0 lead in the seventh inning. Workman walked a pair before Brasier surrendered a three-run homer to Neil Walker.
So take those old records off the shelf, remove the cellophane from in front of the lockers, and get the bubbly out of the room. For at least one more day.
We know all about the amazing things the Sox have done this year. They are 55 games over .500. They have a 10½-game lead over the Yankees.
They are a cinch to win a third consecutive AL East. No Sox team has ever finished first in three straight seasons. The Sox have 103 wins and need only three more in their final 10 games to break the franchise record (105 back in 1912 when Smoky Joe Wood went 34-5, but lost the Cy Young Award to some guy with a lower WHIP).
“I’m proud of the way we’ve done things on a daily basis,’’ rookie manager Alex Cora acknowledged hours before Tuesday’s loss. “We have a chance to win 11 in October.’’
That would mean a duck boat parade and a fourth Red Sox World Series championship this century.
But there are still big issues and we all know that the Boston bullpen is the enemy of the people who root for this team.
With the division effectively clinched, we have two weeks to mount more pressure on this record-setting team. Two more weeks for them to get the bullpen figured out. And each regular-season win only puts more weight on their upcoming postseason push.
Everyone — even Jonny Gomes — knows that none of what has happened this year will amount to a hill of baked beans if the 2018 Sox fail to get out of the first round of the playoffs again (the Sox are 1-6 in the playoffs the last two years). It is what these guys do in October that will determine how they are remembered. Will they go down in history as the real deal or a pack of show ponies who took care of business against a chorus line of American League bums (Orioles, White Sox, Royals, Jays, Rangers) night after bloody night?
Tuesday’s loss was a big tease for everyone in Red Sox Nation. It certainly was one of the longest days in Red Sox history. The game was scheduled to be played at 1 p.m., and some Sox folks got to the park by 8 a.m. At around 10 a.m., due to a forecast of afternoon rain, the game was switched to 7:05 p.m. Some Sox personnel stayed at the park straight through.
The visitors’ clubhouse was quiet and dry at 4:30 in the afternoon. David Price worked on a crossword puzzle as he sat in front of his locker, while Dennis Eckersley stood on the opposite side of the room chatting with reporters. (Who says Eck doesn’t go into the clubhouse?)
Standing near Eckersley, one of the Sox veteran clubhouse attendants admitted that celebration arrangements had been made in the event of a clinch, but there was no evidence of cellophane or champagne.
It was hard to stand in that room and not think of the night in 2016 when we witnessed the goofiest clinch party of all time as the division-winning Red Sox doused one another with beer and champagne minutes after coughing up a ninth-inning lead and losing on a walkoff grand slam by Mark Teixeira.
That was the night John Farrell had to tell his lads that it was OK to celebrate, even though they’d endured a hideous defeat.
The mighty, mighty Bostons came to the Apple this week knowing that any division-clinching moment would only be delivered as a result of a victory. NESN sideline reporter Guerin Austin was ready with rain gear and waterproof mascara.
Cora was thoughtful when asked about clinch celebrations he has known. The first-year skipper was a player on the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox and served as bench coach with the champion Houston Astros last autumn. This means he celebrated at Fenway when Jonathan Papelbon danced on the Boston lawn with a beer carton on his head after the Sox beat the Tribe in 2007. Cora was at Fenway again last year after his ’Stros beat Chris Sale in Game 4 at Fenway.
“In ’07, we went to Game On and celebrated,’’ remembered Cora. “Then there was Colorado and that was cool. Last year? Well, there was less for me to do. Celebrations are for players. I made a point to stand in the corner and watch. The players are the ones. It was cool to watch our players. Maybe they’d come up and give you a hug and say something, but that’s the difference between being a player and a coach.’’
It looked as if we were in for another party when Nathan Eovaldi worked six scoreless innings and the Sox took a 1-0 lead on J.D. Martinez’ sac fly in the third.
But then came the middle relievers. And the three-run shot by Walker.
That wasn’t the end, of course. The Red Sox rallied for a run in the ninth on a walk and two Yankee errors. But when Ian Kinsler grounded into a game-ending double play, we were on to Wednesday night. Still waiting.
Price gets the ball Wednesday. Perfect. He’s just the guy you want out there for the clincher.