First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

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First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

SEATTLE -- On Sunday afternoon Major League Baseball will reveal the rosters for the All-Star Game, to be played on July 10 in Kansas City.

David Ortiz, who was the leading vote-getter in fan balloting when the last totals were released, will undoubtedly be the starting DH for the American League.

Beyond that, however, the Red Sox aren't guaranteed any other All-Star representatives. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who belted his 15th homer of the season Friday night, could be selected as a reserve, but that's far from assured.

Saltalamacchia must battle Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli at the position.

The Sox, then, for the first time in more than 10 years, face the very real possibility that they will have only one representative (Ortiz) in the All-Star Game, quite a dropoff from recent seasons.

Only last year in Phoenix, the Red Sox had five representatives -- Ortiz, Jon Lester, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett. The year before that, 2009 in Anaheim, the Sox had no fewer than six players selected to the squad: Ortiz, Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Clay Buchholz and Adrian Beltre.

Indeed, for the better part of the last decade, the Red Sox have almost always sent a multitude of players to the mid-summer classic. To find a year in which only one Red Sox player was chosen, you have to go back to 2001: Manny Ramirez.

(That season, both Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, perennial All-Stars at that point in their careers, were injured.)

This summer, it isn't injuries so much as underperformance. Lester has been healthy all year, but has just five wins. Beckett, who is coming back from a brief DL stint, has four wins. Both Beckett and Lester, nominally the top two starters on the staff, have ERAs over 4.00.

It's the same around the infield: Gonzalez is hitting under .270 with just a half-dozen homers as the season reaches the midway point and Pedroia, though undoubtedly hampered by a thumb injury for nearly two months, entered Friday's game hitting .267.

What does the lack of All-Stars say about the current edition of the Red Sox?

It's too simple to suggest that a lack of All-Stars signifies a poor team, or, conversely, that an abundance of Stars guarantees success. The last two years, in which the Sox placed five (2011) and six players (2010) on the squad, they failed to make the playoffs either season.

Then again, the fact that only Ortiz is assured of being on the A.L. team does seem to say something about the current Red Sox and explain some of the apathy toward the team.

Some of the ill-will felt by fans toward the team is undoubtedly the result of last September's bitter aftertaste. But there's also a distinct lack of star power, especially with Ellsury and Carl Crawford missing almost the entire first half of the season, and Pedroia and Gonzalez underachieving.

Beyond the likes of rookie Will Middlebrooks and persevering journeyman Daniel Nava, there's not a lot of individual appeal to this edition. For a team which so carefully markets itself and presents itself as much an ongoing TV show as a baseball team, that's a curious end result.

Perhaps this lack of star power is temporary. Perhaps, by next summer, Middlebrooks and others will be more established and the veterans will have rebounded and the Sox will again pack the American League All-Star roster.

But in two weeks, for this season anyway, the team with the third-biggest payroll in the game might not have any more representatives than cellar-dwelling non-contenders like San Diego and Houston.

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?