BOSTON (AP) -- In a subdued Boston clubhouse, David Ortiz tried
his best to celebrate.
Nifty Fifty Red Sox
'06 to date
The slugger hit his 50th homer Wednesday night to match a Red
Sox record, but the man they call "Big Papi" wasn't in his usual
jovial mood after the Minnesota Twins beat Boston 8-2 and clinched
the AL East for the New York Yankees."Right now we need to finish the season," Ortiz said in a
voice barely above a whisper. "We're having a tough time at this
point of the season and it's crazy how things are going. I just
told everybody we've got to keep on playing."New York leads Boston by 11 games with 10 to play. The Yankees
have won the division every year since 1998, but Boston still has
to fight off Toronto to hold onto its traditional spot as division
runner-up; the Blue Jays trail the Red Sox by one game after
beating the Yankees 3-2.
The Red Sox's loss to Minnesota eliminated Boston from the AL East pennant race, but the consolation prize for the home crowd was David Ortiz's 50th home run of the year. Ortiz tied the single-season franchise record set in 1938 by Jimmie Foxx, who also hit his 50th at Fenway Park.
Between Foxx and Ortiz, the only player to hit home run No. 50 or more of a season at Fenway was Mickey Mantle, who smacked his 51st homer of the 1956 season there, as well as the last of his 54 homers in 1961.
"It ended the way it was supposed to end. They played a lot
better than us over the course of the season," said Red Sox
starter Curt Schilling, who returned from a three-week layoff but
lasted just five innings and did not get a decision. "I don't
think we opened the door for them as much as they kicked it in."The Twins, who have won 10 of their last 12, remained a
half-game behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central after the
Tigers beat the White Sox 6-2. Minnesota leads Chicago by 5½ games
in the wild-card race."We're inching closer, but there's still a long way to go,"
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's all about getting back
into the playoffs."Boof Bonser (6-5) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven
innings, striking out five to win his third consecutive decision.
Michael Cuddyer had three of Minnesota's 16 hits and scored two
runs.Ortiz tied Jimmie Foxx's 1938 franchise record with a solo shot
that gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead after six. But Cuddyer led off the
eighth with a double, Justin Morneau walked and Torii Hunter hit
the first pitch he saw from Craig Hansen (2-2) over the Green
Monster seats to make it 4-2.Rondell White doubled to chase Hansen, who faced four batters
and did not record an out. Pinch-runner Lew Ford scored on a
fielder's choice to make it 5-2 before the Twins finally ran
themselves out of the inning with a groundout to first that started
a 3-6-2-5-6 double play.Foxx's record seemed within easy range for Ortiz before he
missed eight games with heart palpitations. He has only three
homers and nine RBI since returning on Sept. 8, but he laced
Bonser's first pitch over the Boston bullpen and circled the bases
to the strains of "Simply the Best."His teammates applauded from the top of the dugout, and fans
continued to cheer until he came back out of the dugout to tip his
cap."You're talking about a franchise that's been around for a long
time and has had some of the greatest hitters who have ever
played," Schilling said. "And he has a chance to do something
that's never been done in this uniform."Some of the Twins were almost as happy for their former
teammate; Ortiz played for Minnesota until he was released after
the 2002 season."When he first hit it, I was pretty upset. But then I thought
about it: That's my roommate, my role model, my buddy," said
Hunter, who had lunch with Ortiz before the series and could tell
the Red Sox slugger was looking forward to No. 50. "I hope he gets
to 60 in the last 10 or 11 games -- but not against us."It was Ortiz's 43rd homer as a DH this year, tying the record he
set last year.Schilling needed 104 pitches to get through five innings in his
return after missing three starts with a strained side muscle. He
allowed one run and seven hits while striking out three. He has not
won in six starts since Aug 4.Morneau, who went 5-for-5 on Tuesday, was 1-for-4 with an RBI
single in the ninth that made it 6-2. Hunter followed with an RBI
groundout, and Ford's RBI single made it 8-2.
Ortiz has homered against every team Boston has played this
year. ... Hunter was back in the lineup after fouling a ball off
his left leg on Tuesday night. ... Morneau needs one RBI to tie
Harmon Killebrew (1962) for second on the team's single season list
with 126. Killebrew also owns the club record with 140 in 1961. ...
Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis was out of the lineup because of neck
spasms. He left Tuesday night's game with a neck strain. He is
expected to miss "a couple of games," manager Terry Francona
said. ... OF Manny Ramirez had an MRI on his right knee that was
negative. He has missed the last nine games.