Four Real? O's close Sox 9-18-13

Franklin Morales was the goat on Wednesday night at Fenway Park as the Baltimore Orioles
shackled the Red Sox to a 5-3, extra-inning loss in Game Two of the series.

Jan-Christian Sorensen
Contributing Writer

Hold those horses, Red Sox Nation.

The Red Sox could have punched their first playoff ticket since 2009 and eliminated Baltimore from the American League East Division race to boot with a victory Wednesday night at Fenway Park, but ended up falling 5-3 to the Orioles to postpone the celebration for at least one more day.

On a glass-half-full note, the Cleveland Indians fell to Kansas City 7-2 to knock Boston’s magic number to secure that postseason berth down to one game.

On a glass-half-empty note, Tampa Bay topped the visiting Texas Rangers 4-3 in extra innings to keep Boston’s magic number to clinch the East to three games, and the Red Sox guaranteed their first series loss in the last nine by dropping the first two games to Baltimore. The win also pushed the Orioles within one game of Tampa Bay and Texas, currently in the lead for the two American League wild card slots.

Red Sox starter Jake Peavy was charged with three runs on six hits and struck out eight in seven innings of work and Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara came on to combine for three innings of scoreless relief, but it was Franklin Morales who took the loss and fell to 2-2 after giving up two runs on three hits in two innings out of the bullpen.

Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen was tagged for three runs and 11 hits while striking out five over five and two-thirds, T.J. McFarland picked up the win in one inning of relief and Jim Johnson recorded his second save in two nights for his 47th of the season. Kevin Gausman was a flamethrower out of the pen in two innings of middle-relief duty and held Boston at bay, striking out five of the six Sox he faced.

David Ortiz and Mike Napoli kept the Red Sox close with a home run each and Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks both recorded three-hit nights, but it wasn’t enough to get the Red Sox over the hump, despite Boston out-hitting the Birds 15-10.

With the win, Baltimore takes a 10-6 advantage over the Sox in the season series and Boston falls to 11-5 in the month of September with nine left to play. The Sox still boast the best record in all of baseball at 92-61.

Here are the four at-bats that changed the game:

1) Ortiz Digs Deep: In the bottom of the first, David Ortiz delivered the Red Sox a 2-0 lead early when he deposited a Wei-Yin Chen fastball into the right-field stands for his 28th home run of the year.

2) The Old Give And Jake: After cruising for four innings, Jake Peavy got into trouble in the fifth with only one out when Brian Roberts doubled in Matt Wieters from third to tie the game up 2-2.

3) Mike Makes It Right: In the bottom of the sixth with the Sox down a run, Mike Napoli knotted the  game at 3-3 with one swing of the bat, crushing a Chen fastball deep to center for his 23rd homer of the season and sixth round-tripper in September.

4) No Mystery To Morales: Chris Davis, batting .667 lifetime versus Franklin Morales, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the 12th and ripped a Morales pitch up the middle to drive in J.J. Hardy and Brian Roberts and put the Orioles up 5-3.

Tomorrow, the Sox will try to salvage a win in Game Three of the series behind John Lackey (9-12, 3.56 ERA) as the Red Sox face 16-6 Chris Tillman, who has a 3.70 ERA for the O’s in 2013. First pitch goes at 7:10 p.m. EST.

Twitter: @jan_doh