By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Whether or not the Red Sox make the playoffs, Tuesdays 7-5 loss to the Orioles at Fenway Park, dropping their record to 5-15 in September, will very likely stand as their signature defeat of the season.
Jonathan Papelbons declarations to the contrary, there was plenty of blame to be shared in this loss to the team with the second-worst record in the American League and third-worst record overall. Poor pitching. Lack of timely hitting. Sloppy defense. They were all on dubious display in this game.
Erik Bedard posted yet another in a string of abysmal starting pitching performances in September. He lasted just 2 23 innings giving up four runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks with no strikeouts. Facing 16 batters, he threw 76 pitches 51 in the third inning, tying Casey Coleman and John Danks for a major-league high in pitches in an inning this season.
As unlikely as it seems, though, Bedard -- making his first appearance since Sept. 3; he's been sidelined by back and knee ailments -- actually lowered the ERA of Sox starting pitchers this month from 6.87 to 6.77. That tells you how poorly Boston starters have been performing.
If you play a sport, you have to put all that stuff aside, Bedard said. If you let outside distractions get to you, you cant focus out there.
He could also have been distracted by Josh Reddicks error in the third inning. Reddick dropped Vladimir Guerreros fly ball to right field with two outs, a man on second and the later in the inning to come home as the Orioles took a 4-1 lead.
Just misjudged it, came in, said Reddick. He obviously hit it hard enough. I thought he did and it kept going. I jumped a little too late and it just got it off the end of the glove. It was a bad read.
After that misplay, Bedard walked the next two batters.
You do the best you can, Bedard said of the error. It happens. People make errors. Its just part of the game. You try to limit the damage. As a pitcher thats all youre thinking of.
The Sox offense stranded four runners in scoring position with two outs, the last of which came in the sixth when Mike Aviles was left at second base. Any one of those runs may have changed the course of the later innings for the Sox.
The most egregious breakdowns, however, came in the eighth inning. Daniel Bard, who started the seventh, came back out for the eight. But after putting runners on first and second with one out, manager Terry Francona went to Papelbon, for what he hoped would be a five-out save.
Instead, Papelbon was charged with his second blown save of the season and first since May 9, the last time he entered a game in the eighth inning.
We went to Bard early, Francona said. We had told these guys we probably would. But I think we had gone far enough where we wanted Pap to face the lefty Chris Davis and get one and piece it together and it didnt work.
Instead of shutting down the Os, Papelbon struck out Davis then loaded the bases, giving up a single to No. 9 hitter Nolan Reimold after getting him to 0-and-2. Papelbon then allowed Robert Andino, who entered the game hitting .265, a three-run double on a 3-and-2 count, scoring the eventual game-winning runs.
We went to Pap, like we planned, Francona said. We hoped to get into a situation where we could get to Bard and Pap. Knowing Erik probably wouldnt go too far. Got ahead of Reimold 0-2 tried to go up and away and misfired.
Then we get into a situation where we get a deep count. Andino shoots one to right, clears the bases. Thats the way it goes. Pap has been so good. Hopefully we can get him the ball tomorrow.
Papelbon insisted the loss belonged to him.
I got to be able to put guys away on 0-2," he said. "For me its, this games on me. We were put in a situation where the team needed me, I didnt come through. I dont want to hear anything tomorrow about Tito bringing in guys early, the lineup not coming through, or anything else. This game is on me. My job when Im called on is to go out there and finish the game. I didnt do that so this games on me and I take full responsibility for that.
The way Ive been throwing the ball I got to go out there and execute. I didnt do that and by me not going out there and executing 0-2 pitches, I let my team down. So Ill shoulder that. Ill take full responsibility and Ill be ready to go tomorrow. Thats it. Its plain and simple.
"This is the time of year, we cant think about tonight. We got to go out there tomorrow and keep grinding away. Theres nothing we can do, except for the fact that Im going to take this, put it on my shoulders and let everybody know, this is on me, nobody else.
As much as he would like not to, on this night Papelbon gets to share that responsibility.
Now, the Sox who have lost 7 of their last 10 games hope to earn a split of the four-game series against the hapless Orioles who, since Sept. 7, are 8-3 against the Yankees, Rays, Angels, and Red Sox. In that time, the Sox are 3-11.
Nobodys going to lay down for us, Papelbon said. Nobodys going to hand us any wins. We got to go out there and get it on our own. That's the only way its going to happen.
If there was anything that can mitigate the bitterness of this loss, perhaps it is this the Rays lost to the Yankees. The Sox magic number to clinch the A.L. wild card is now down to seven.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.