Playoff-destined Red Sox drop season finale to Orioles
Boston Red Sox' Jacoby Ellsbury, left, runs toward first base as Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis reaches for a throw in the fourth inning of an MLB American League baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. Ellsbury advanced to second base on a throwing error by catcher Steve Clevenger, Jarrod Saltalamacchia scored on the play and Davis left the game with an injury. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Boston Red Sox' David Ortiz, left, fist-bumps teammate Jarrod Saltalamacchia after scoring a run on a sacrifice ground ball by Mike Carp in the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Allen Webster throws to the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman throws to the Boston Red Sox in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore Orioles' J.J. Hardy doubles in the fifth inning of an MLB American League baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. Steve Clevenger and Jonathan Schoop scored on the play. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
BALTIMORE – On the last day of the regular season, David Ortiz arrived at the ballpark wearing a white shirt with a pink floral design and a white coat with a bright red handkerchief stuffed in the pocket.
His Boston Red Sox teammates teased away, saying he looked like a waiter or a wedding guest, but the slugger would have none of it.
“You guys are always waiting for the best-looking guy on the team, right?” he said when reporters surrounded his locker.
Ortiz is all dressed up and has a place to go. The Red Sox wrapped up the regular season yesterday with a 7-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, a game that had an exhibition feel for the AL East champions as they look ahead to the playoffs.
“We are right where we need to be,” Ortiz said. “You want to make sure that you’re in the playoffs, and now it’s all about surviving.”
The Red Sox finished 97-65, tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in baseball. Boston will open its division series at Fenway Park on Friday against the winner of the AL’s wild-card playoff, a layoff so long that Manager John Farrell is planning simulated games for Wednesday’s workout.
“I think everybody’s anticipating Friday, but we’ve still got some work to do before we get there,” Farrell said, “whether that’s finding out who we’re going to play, but, more importantly, to continue to address not only the roster internally, but the work that we need to stay as sharp as possible.”
Making liberal use of the bench and bullpen with home-field advantage in the postseason already clinched, the Red Sox blew a 5-0 lead and used seven pitchers. Rubby De La Rosa (0-2) gave up Baltimore’s go-ahead run in the sixth.
T.J. McFarland (4-1), the second of four Orioles pitchers, threw one scoreless inning for the win.
Jim Johnson worked the ninth for his 50th save, but not before allowing one run and nearly a second that would have tied the game. The Red Sox had men on first and third with one out when Will Middlebrooks ended the game by hitting into a 5-4-3 double play.
Johnson, who had 51 saves last year, became the second player in major league history with back-to-back 50-save seasons, joining Eric Gagne, who had 52 in 2002 and 55 in 2003.
The Orioles finished 85-77, giving them back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1996-97, an achievement that hardly tempers the disappointment of not repeating last year’s run to the playoffs.
The final blow came when Chris Davis sprained his left wrist in the fourth inning on a play at first base. X-rays were negative, but the injury ended his season a couple of hours earlier than expected. The player who accepted the Orioles’ MVP award before the game walked off to a standing ovation, finishing tops in the majors in both homers (53) and RBIs (138).
“Nothing serious, no broken bones, no fractures, just sprained my wrist,” Davis said. “They said it would probably be sore for a few days. It’s not going to affect anything going into the offseason, nothing like that. I was really glad to hear that.”
Davis was hurt on a nubber by Jacoby Ellsbury. The ball stopped only a few feet in front of home plate, and catcher Steve Clevenger’s throw hit Ellsbury on the left side of the back just as Ellsbury was arriving at the bag. Davis’ attempt to catch the ball left his outstretched hand in the path of Ellsbury’s torso.
Davis’ glove flew off, and he immediately grabbed his wrist. He attempted a few throws under the supervision of the trainer before heading to the dugout.
“We dodged a bullet there, hopefully,” Baltimore Manager Buck Showalter said. “Next week or two passes and he’s still got problems, we’ll go into more detail with it.”
Davis’s sub, Ryan Flaherty, picked up the slack, hitting an RBI single in a five-run fifth and a run-scoring double when the Orioles took the lead for good in the sixth.
With the four-day break to come, Red Sox Manager Farrell wanted to give multiple innings to multiple pitchers. Scheduled starter John Lackey was scratched for Allen Webster, who threw three hitless innings. Felix Doubront pitched a scoreless fourth but fell apart in the fifth, retiring only one of the eight batters he faced as the Orioles scored five to tie the game.
“We got everybody to the mound that we hoped to,” Farrell said. “We found some things out, at least in the short run.”
∎ Ellsbury began the game with his 10th career leadoff homer, breaking the club record held by Dom DiMaggio and Tommy Harper.
∎ Baltimore set a major league record with 54 errors in a 162-game season, 11 fewer than the previous mark set by the 2003 Mariners.
∎ The Red Sox finished the season with 39 consecutive successful stolen base attempts. Their 86.6 percentage for the season (123 for 142) is the best by an AL team since the statistic has been tracked in the league, starting in 1920.
∎ Orioles CF Adam Jones sat out with a sore right wrist, which he hurt while fouling off a pitch in the seventh inning of Saturday night’s game.
∎ The Orioles drew more than 2.3 million, their best season attendance since 2005.