BOSTON — Even Jonathan Papelbon can’t be counted on to save the Red Sox now.
And Boston keeps stumbling toward a playoff berth — or an epic collapse.
The Red Sox most dependable player blew his first save in 4 1/2 months when Robert Andino’s three-run double in the eighth inning lifted the Baltimore Orioles to a 7-5 win Tuesday night and ruined a chance for Boston to extend its two-game lead in the AL wild-card race.
The Red Sox seemed headed for a three-game, wild-card lead over Tampa Bay, which lost to the New York Yankees 5-0 on Tuesday. But their struggles continued as they fell to 4-13 since leading the Rays by nine games on Sept. 3. They haven’t won consecutive games since sweeping a doubleheader against Oakland on Aug. 27.
“My job when I’m called on is to go out there and finish the game,” Papelbon said. “I didn’t do that, so this game is on me and I take full responsibility for that.”
The closer who had gone 21 games since last allowing a run on July 16 wasn’t the only one blaming himself in the quiet Red Sox clubhouse after losing to the team with baseball’s third-worst record.
Right fielder Josh Reddick said “it was the worst feeling ever” after his error on a two-out liner by Vladimir Guerrero led to two runs in the third and forced starter Erik Bedard to face four extra batters.
“We should have never had that close of a game,” Reddick said. “I kind of hurt the whole team from bottom to top.”
Papelbon said “There’s no reason for us to sit here and say, ‘The walls are crumbling down, start panicking.’ That’s not going to happen in this clubhouse. Nobody’s going to hand us any wins. We’ve got to go out there and get it on our own.”
Boston has seven games remaining and Tampa Bay has nine.
“We’ll take that situation every day” with Papelbon entering with a 5-4 lead, second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “We’ll come out (Wednesday) and play our butts off. … We’re good. We’ll be all right. Take a deep breath.”
Willie Eyre (2-1) got the win and Jim Johnson picked up his eighth save in 13 opportunities. Daniel Bard (2-9) had runners at first and second with one out when he was replaced by Papelbon, who entered with 30 saves in 31 chances.
Papelbon, who had 28 strikeouts in the 21 straight scoreless outings, struck out Chris Davis for the second out. Then Nolan Reimold singled to short left field, loading the bases, and Andino doubled down the right-field line for his third hit of the game.
“He’s a tough pitcher,” Andino said. “We all know who Papelbon is. You just try to get on top of a pitch and just put it in play.”
But Papelbon was more upset with his 0-2 pitch that Reimold hit to keep the inning alive.
“Unacceptable,” he said firmly, his hands on his hips.
Papelbon had his first blown save since May 9, the last time he entered a game before the ninth inning.
The Red Sox wrap up a four-game series with the Orioles on Wednesday night before playing their last six on the road, three each against the New York Yankees and Baltimore.
“Just the emotion of the games, I think, plays well for us,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “We kind of, more than anything, just have some envy. At some point we want to be in their position.”
Adrian Gonzalez drove in three runs with a two-run homer and a double for the Red Sox.
They went ahead 1-0 in the first on consecutive doubles by Pedroia and Gonzalez.
But Baltimore scored four runs in the third when starter Bedard threw 51 pitches and retired just two batters. With one out, Andino singled on a 13-pitch at-bat and scored on Nick Markakis’ two-out double. Reddick then misjudged Guerrero’s liner it by taking a few steps in then had it go off his glove as he went back, allowing Markakis to score.
After walks to Matt Wieters and Adam Jones loaded the bases, Mark Reynolds hit a two-run double.
The Red Sox cut the lead to 4-3 in the third on a double by Pedroia and Gonzalez’s 27th homer of the season.
They went ahead with two runs in the fourth, helped by an error. With no outs, Marco Scutaro walked, Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled and Mike Aviles singled in the tying run. Jacoby Ellsbury’s single loaded the bases.
After Pedroia struck out, Gonzalez grounded to first baseman Reynolds, who threw home for the force then let the return throw go off his glove. That allowed Gonzalez, who was several feet from the base when the ball got to Reynolds, to reach safely and Aviles to score the tie-breaking run.
Notes: Showalter was ejected for arguing a third-strike call against Weiters in the fifth. … CF Jones, who had an injured thumb, and 1B Reynolds, who was hit in the head by a pitch on Saturday returned to the Orioles lineup. … Ellsbury’s single in the fourth was his 200th hit. It came one day after Gonzalez had five hits to reach 203 for the season. It’s the third time the Red Sox have had two players with 200 hits in the same season — Wade Boggs (240) and Bill Buckner (201) in 1985 and Boggs (207) and Jim Rice (200) in 1986. … Guerrero and Jones were thrown out trying to st eal in the fourth by Saltalamacchia. … Josh Beckett (13-5) pitches for Boston against Tommy Hunter (4-4) on Wednesday night.