McAdam: Road trip in rearview, Sox going strong

191542.jpg

McAdam: Road trip in rearview, Sox going strong

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Two and a half weeks ago, the Red Sox were staring into a scheduling abyss: They would rack up tends of thousands of miles, flying from the midwest to the Pacific Northwest, back to Boston (briefly), then back to the midwest and Texas.

The stretch was daunting. But the Red Sox survived, even thrived.

They went 10-7 in those 17 games, including a 9-5 run in the 14 road games. When the stretch began, the Sox led the Yankees by a game. Now that the demanding span of games is over, their lead is exactly the same: A full game over second-place New York.

That included a 6-2 finish in Kansas City and Texas, where the Red Sox had been winless earlier in the season and carried a five-game losing streak into Tuesday.

"We've been playing well," said Dustin Pedroia. "This part was tough and this last (bit of it) says a lot about our team. We came out here, lose the first game then played three great games."

Of the five series' that made up the 17-game segment of the schedule, the Sox won three and lost two. By winning each of the last two series, both on the road, the Sox can now claim eight winning road trips in the last nine and still boast the best road record in either league.

At 50-30, the Red Sox have 32 games remaining over the next 4 12 weeks. Of those 32, 19 are at home, with just 13 remaining away from Fenway.

Of course, the next two days won't feel like much of a reprieve. Following an early Friday morning touchdown in Boston, the Red Sox must play three games in the span of about 25 hours.

Then, they'll have two straight days off, which might interrupt any momentum they've built. But they're also at home for the next 10 days, with the full knowledge that just two road trips remain.

The worst is over.

The one-game lead over the Yankees is hardly secure and there are no guarantees that it will remain intact past next week, when the Yankees visit for three games.

More likely, the division -- for whatever that's worth for bragging rights, home field and a better first-round draw - won't be decided until the final weekend of the season when the Red Sox visit New York.

But for now, the toughest part of the summer is behind them. The test was passed.

"I don't think it's time to take a deep breath," cautioned manager Terry Francona. "But we're hanging in there."

Two and a half long weeks ago, tens of thousands of miles back, that was the goal.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

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?