Bobby V's back up plan

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Bobby V's back up plan

Now that the Sox are winning, and the insanity surrounding just about everything has finally simmered, Bobby Valentine has been a little more forthcoming about some of the team's early struggles.

For instance, here's what he told reporters before yesterday's win against the A's.

To tell you the truth, I didn't have a what-if at the beginning of the season. Im kicking myself for it," he said. The outfield and the bullpen, I didn't have a major plan for not having Jacoby Ellsbury. My fault. I should have. And two-deep in the bullpen. The two guys we traded for during the wintertime Andrew Bailey and Melancon, you figure one of them pitching the ninth inning come April 13.

"Im kicking myself a little. I think I didn't have a great plan. But its coming together now.

Now, I can't tell if Valentine's being serious or subtly sarcastic here. Or maybe he's just trying to show some humility in the face of everyone who won't shut up about his ego. But whatever the reason, there's no need to beat himself up over that ugly opening stretch. Not about that stuff, at least.

Seriously, is there a manager in baseball who has a plan for losing his closer a few days before the season, watching his set up man turn to mush and then having his superstar lead-off hitter and center fielder disappear for six-eight weeks? No way.

You don't plan for that. If so, then where do you stop? "OK, guys. So what happens if the team bus gets sideswiped on the way to a road game and we lose half our line-up for a month, what do we do? Come, we need a plan!" At some point, you have to stop preparing for worst case scenarios and focus on the present.

Which is what I assume Valentine was doing as the Sox drudged through an awfully unlucky start to the season. But to his credit, Valentine (with a lot of help from the players, obviously) has persevered. He's found the right guys to put in the right spots and, as a result, the Sox are winning.

Now all Valentine has to do is learn the rest of his player's names, take a little more time with the opposing scouting reports (example: ALWAYS check to see if pitcher is a righty or lefty) and he'll be golden.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

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?