By HOWARD ULMAN  AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) _ Boos poured down on the struggling Red Sox as they
left the field after their latest loss. In the clubhouse, it was
quiet as they packed for their final road trip _ and perhaps their
last games _ of the year.

The Red Sox road to the playoffs hit more rough spots when they
blew another late lead, falling to the Baltimore Orioles 6-4 on
Wednesday night, their 14th loss in 18 games.

Boston’s lead in the AL wild-card race increased by a half game
to 21/2 when the Tampa Bay Rays lost a doubleheader to the New York
Yankees. But the Red Sox seemed stunned by their collapse, with
blank looks on their faces and little expression in their voices.
“We certainly haven’t made it very easy for ourselves,”
manager Terry Francona said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t get where
we want to go, but we have our work cut out for us.”

Vladimir Guerrero hit a two-run single in the eighth inning that
broke a 4-all tie. Then the Red Sox went meekly in the last two
innings, failing to get a hit and ending on Jed Lowrie’s soft
grounder to pitcher Jim Johnson.

The Red Sox led Tampa Bay by nine games on Sept. 3. Now they
also must hold off the Los Angeles Angels, who also are 21/2 games
out in the AL wild-card race after beating Toronto 7-2 on

The Red Sox have six games left _ three at Yankee Stadium and
three at Baltimore. Tampa Bay has seven remaining _ four against
the Yankees and three against Toronto.

Can the Red Sox, who straightened out their season after losing
their first six games and 10 of their first 12, do it again?
“I think I can answer that better next Wednesday” after the
regular-season finale, Francona said. “I’m not in a very good mood
right now. We just lost a game, you know. We’ve lost a lot of
games. We’re going to have to fight for everything we get the rest
of the way.”

Ace Josh Beckett started for Boston, hoping to put more distance
between Boston and the Rays. Beckett (13-6) allowed just one hit
through five innings as the Red Sox built a 4-1 lead.
But he gave up a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh on
Mark Reynolds’ second homer that tied the game.
“I kept thinking when we kept it at 4-2, I thought we could get
a big hit and we did,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

In the eighth, Beckett gave up a single to J.J. Hardy and a
double to Nick Markakis. Alfredo Aceves relieved with runners at
second and third, then gave up Guerrero’s hard, two-run single to
center field.
“You want to pitch good all year long, but especially whenever
your team needs you,” Beckett said. “You need to give them
innings and quality innings and that was something I wasn’t able to

One night before Boston’s best starter faltered, star closer
Jonathan Papelbon blew a save chance for only the second time this
season when he gave up a three-run double to Robert Andino in the
eighth that gave Baltimore a 7-5 win.

Clay Rapada (2-0) got the win on Wednesday and Johnson earned
his ninth save in 14 chances _ his third in as many days against
“It’s pretty tough,” Beckett said. “I wish I could have done
better today. Things didn’t work out. I got away with some pitches
early and I didn’t get away with them later on.”

Carl Crawford, who has struggled most of the season after
signing a seven-year, $142 million contract, had a single, double
and triple for Boston and drove in two runs.
“That’ll be welcome if he wants to get real hot like he can,”
Francona said. “That’ll really help us.”

Reynolds hit a solo homer in the second before Boston tied the
game in the third on a triple by Crawford and an RBI groundout by
Jason Varitek.

Crawford gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead in the fourth with a
two-run double after a single by Adrian Gonzalez and a double by
Dustin Pedroia. Consecutive singles by Mike Aviles, Gonzalez and
David Ortiz made it 4-1 in the fifth against Tommy Hunter, who left
the game with two outs in the seventh with a strained right groin.
“It got pretty tight,” Hunter said. “It’s one of those things
that’s been lingering all year. I’m glad I didn’t throw another

The Orioles added a run in the sixth when Andino singled, stole
second and scored on a single by Hardy. They tied it in the seventh
when Matt Wieters singled and was forced out at second on a
grounder by Adam Jones before Reynolds hit his 36th homer of the
season _ his second of the game over the Green Monster in left
“It’s pretty tough,” Beckett said. “I wish I could have done
better today. Things didn’t work out.”

NOTES: Reynolds tied a career-high with two homers in a game. It
was the fifth time he did it this season and the 12th time in his
career. … After a day off on Thursday, the Red Sox begin a
season-ending six-game road trip with Jon Lester (15-8) facing the
New York Yankees in the opener of a three-game series on Friday
night. Boston finishes the season with a three-game series in
Baltimore starting Monday. … With two hits, Gonzalez passed Mo
Vaughn for the most hits in a season by a Red Sox first baseman.
Gonzalez has 208, one more than Vaughn had in 1996. … Jacoby
Ellsbury got a hit for his 33rd consecutive game against Baltimore.
It’s the longest hitting streak against the Orioles franchise and
the longest by a Red Sox player against any team.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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