Notes: Rough one for Stewart; Ross homers

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Notes: Rough one for Stewart; Ross homers

BALTIMORE -- Zach Stewart's second start was only marginally better than his first. And that meant it wasn't very good at all.

Stewart was rocked for five runs on seven hits in just 2 23 innings in the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Sunday.

That wasn't quite as bad as his first outing, when he gave up nine runs on 10 hits in just three innings against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Aug. 29 -- but the improvement was minimal.

"A little rusty,'' offered Valentine of Stewart, who hadn't pitched since the International League playoffs on Sept. 12. "Before you knew it, it was five runs (on the scoreboard). He'll have better days, that's for sure.''

Stewart gave up three runs in the first. Then he allowed a leadoff homer to Chris Davis, and two more singles before he could get through the third.

"I didn't feel like I was very consistent,'' said Stewart, "and against a team like that, you have to be consistent. They're good and they showed what they can do. I felt like I threw some good pitches and when I kept the ball down, it was good. But I just didn't do that consistently enough.''

These two outings, of course, weren't exactly the impression that Stewart wanted to make.

"I'm just going to take all the mistakes -- and there were a lot of them -- and just work from there,'' said Stewart. "It's not good to go into the off-season on these two starts, but I felt like the last couple of starts in Pawtucket were good and I'm just going to build on that and go from there and try to improve on that.''

Cody Ross homered in the fourth, giving him 22 for the season. But just as valuable, according to Valentine, is Ross's every-day presence in the lineup and durability.

Ross missed exactly a month -- from May 19 to June 19 -- with a broken foot, but has otherwise played in 127 games. Only Dustin Pedroia and Mike Aviles played more among position players.

"He and Dustin have really been the only ones to go the post more often than everyone else,'' said Valentine. "That's very commendable. Cody's been a warrior. He's never asked out. He's been clutch. He's been fun to have on the team. He's a very good teammates. Cody knows the difference between right and wrong and that's a good leadership quality. I think a lot of guys can follow Cody's lead.''

The Sox have been out of contention for the better part of the last six weeks, but Ross remains a constant in the lineup.

"I've pretty much asked him every day (about his availability) and he's never even shied away from it. We need more like him -- people understand that his way is the best way.''

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was not in the starting lineup Sunday, is nonetheless a homer away from trying the club record for most homers in a season by a player whose primary position is at catcher.

Saltalamacchia hit his 25th homer Friday night. Carlton Fisk hit 26 in both 1973 and 1977.

"When you get that kind of offense from your catcher,'' said Valentine, "you can possibly get less offense from other positions (and survive). I think it's very valuable. The power is there. He just needs to do a little more with the other at-bats.

"A lot of his home run earlier in the season were real crucial home runs, real big. As a matter of fact, he hasn't had many where the game's been out of reach, as I remember.''

One problem for Saltalamacchia is his strikeout total. He's fanned 135 times in 395 at-bats. His selectivity could improve, too -- he's walked just 37 times for an on-base pecentage of .291.

But Valentine noticed other improvements in Saltalamacchia's game.

"He's not a one-dimensional guy anymore,'' said Valentine. "Going into the season, I think he had this rap where there were a lot of things he couldn't do. I think there's a lot of things he can do as a catcher. People thought he was (just) an offensive catcher. But I think he's great with the pitchers. He's thrown the ball efficiently; the numbers show that they stole a lot of bases against him, but a lot of them had nothing to do with him. And he's blocked the ball extremely well.''

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?