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BOSTON -- Remember back in March, when Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter annoyed the Boston Red Sox with some unflattering comments about general manager Theo Epstein in a magazine article?
|It was a frustrating series for Adrian Gonzalez, who went 0-for-12 against the Rays.|
Well, wouldn't you know it: Showalter and the Orioles are now in great position to add injury to insult to the Sox, who just finished losing three out of four to the Tampa Bay Rays and have Baltimore on the docket for the next four, beginning with Monday's day-night doubleheader.
With 10 games left, the Sox are just two games ahead of the Rays, who resemble genuine postseason contenders while the Sox look like a team that's 4-13 in September. The mood afterward?
"We're happy as [expletive]," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, whose scowl reinforced his sarcasm. "We've got a two-game lead with 10 to go. We're ready to go. That's basically it, man. We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves for playing like crap. Nobody's going to give us anything."
Pedroia clearly was in no mood to discuss the way the Rays beat up on the Sox this season, Tampa Bay winning 12 of the 18 meetings and seven of the last eight, including six of seven in home-and-home sets over the past two weekends. Tampa Bay outscored the Sox 96-57 this season and took an early lead in every meeting this month.
"I've already turned the page," Pedroia said. "We don't play them ever again. Page is turned, man. Got to worry about tomorrow. We're going to be here in 12 hours, so we're going to try to win both those games. That's it."
How bad was it Sunday? With knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound and a wind blowing in making Jarrod Saltalamacchia's job an assignment from hell -- on "Faith Day in Fenway Park," no less -- it was this bad: four passed balls, two wild pitches, four Tampa stolen bases, one runner reaching after a whiff, two throwing errors by third baseman Mike Aviles, a fly ball played into a double by Conor Jackson. Wakefield gave up six runs in five innings (two earned). Andrew Miller gave up two more after a couple of walks in the seventh.
"Real tough," Saltalamacchia said of his afternoon. "The wind might play a little factor, the way [the knuckleball] was moving, I thought the ball was moving a lot, but no excuses. You've got to do the best you can with it. I never gave in. I felt like I gave the best job I could give.
"Seems like this series nothing went our way."
Boston knocked Rays starter David Price out of the game and sent him to the hospital after Aviles scalded him with a line drive off his chest in the third inning, Price leaving in the fourth. (X-rays were negative and Rays manager Joe Maddon said he thought Price would be able to make his next start.) But the Sox couldn't keep it close enough to exploit his departure. Aviles hit a three-run home run in the seventh off reliever Cesar Ramos, but by then Tampa Bay was ahead 8-2.
The big guns were all but silent. Jacoby Ellsbury and Pedroia both singled and came around to score, and Ellsbury added a double with two out in the ninth. But Adrian Gonzalez, who has an inflamed rotator cuff he won't talk about, was hitless in four trips and went 0-for-12 in the series, while David Ortiz had his bid for a home run in the eighth die in front of the warning track.
"Oh yeah, I crushed that ball," Ortiz said. "You know Fenway, man. The wind blowing in, what can you do?"
Meanwhile, Carl Crawford did not start in arguably the biggest game of the season to date, the first game since the end of April he has missed for a reason other than injury. Terry Francona said Crawford didn't play because of his matchup against Price (0-for-9 this season); the manager also could have cited Crawford's general inability to hit lefties (.195), but he didn't. Crawford's absence from the lineup (he later delivered a pinch-hit double, against a lefty reliever, no less) added a certain irony to the comment made by Showalter to Men's Journal that drew the ire of the Sox.
"I'd like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll," Showalter said. "You got Carl Crawford because you paid more than anyone else, and that's what makes you smarter? That's why I like whipping their butt."
Now Showalter gets his chance, the Orioles playing the Red Sox seven times in the season's final 10 days. And as distasteful as it may be for them, Red Sox fans are advised to root for the Yankees, who get seven shots at the Rays in an eight-day span beginning Tuesday.
"I feel pretty good about it, I really do," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They've got two games to play tomorrow. Listen, Baltimore is nobody's pushover. Believe me, they can hit. When their starters get it going on, they're pretty tough.
"On the other hand, the Yankees look pretty good, too."
Crawford dusted off reporters for the second straight day, although in a diary he has maintained with ESPN's Louise K. Cornetta, he said he was "sorry for the year I've had." He also said that if by some "miracle" the Rays wrest the wild-card spot away from the Red Sox, he'll be "devastated."
He'll hardly be alone, of course. But miracle? Some might argue that it'll be a miracle if the Sox survive Monday's doubleheader, given that rookie Kyle Weiland and John Lackey, whose ERAs add up to 13.77, are the pitchers the Sox are sending to the barricades.
"We got to figure out a way to turn it around," Francona said. "I guess I choose to say, knowing the guys down in that clubhouse like I do, that we'll meet this challenge and it'll make us strong."
On Faith Day, that's about all that's left.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.