Aceves, Bard struggle in loss to Rays

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Aceves, Bard struggle in loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A year ago, the late-inning relief tandem of Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard was a source of bullpen strength for the Red Sox.
This year, it's been anything but. And Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, the duo may have bottomed out in the Red Sox' 13-3 drubbing by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Aceves, who had seemingly been in manager Bobby Valentine's doghouse since refusing to hand him the ball on the mound last week against the New York Yankees, was called upon in the fourth inning.
He retired the first three hitters he faced and six of the first seven, but imploded in the sixth. After issuing a leadoff walk in the sixth, he threw wildly on a bunt attempt, setting up baserunners at second and third with no out.
Desmond Jennings then tripled home two runs and scored on an error by Pedro Ciriaco before B.J. Upton followed with a double.
Four hitters faced, four hitters reached, and eventually, scored. Since losing the closer's role to Andrew Bailey in late August, Aceves has appeared in nine games and posted a 9.19 ERA, allowing 19 hits in his last 16 innings.
For the season, his ERA has ballooned to 5.00, almost double that of his 2.66 ERA from 2011.
But if Aceves was bad, Bard, who followed him to the mound in the sixth, was worse.
Showing the almost total lack of command that he battled after being demoted to Pawtucket in early June, Bard faced five hitters, walking three while allowing a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single.
Since being promoted to the big leagues in Anaheim in late August, Bard has allowed hitters to go 8-for-16 off him with three homers and five walks.
"Daniel's kind of in a Catch-22,'' said Bobby Valentine. "It looks like he needs to pitch more, but we'd him to pitch better for him to pitch more. He waits a long time to get in there and it looks like he's trying too hard.''

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

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Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?