BOSTON — Boos poured down on the struggling Red Sox as they left the field after their latest loss. In the clubhouse, it was quiet as they packed for their final road trip — and perhaps their last games — of the year.
The Red Sox road to the playoffs hit more rough spots when they blew another late lead, falling to the Baltimore Orioles 6-4 on Wednesday night, their 14th loss in 18 games.
Boston’s lead in the AL wild-card race increased by a half game to 2½ when the Tampa Bay Rays lost a doubleheader to the New York Yankees. But the Red Sox seemed stunned by their collapse, with blank looks on their faces and little expression in their voices.
“We certainly haven’t made it very easy for ourselves,” manager Terry Francona said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t get where we want to go, but we have our work cut out for us.”
Vladimir Guerrero hit a two-run single in the eighth inning that broke a 4-all tie. Then the Red Sox went meekly in the last two innings, failing to get a hit and ending on Jed Lowrie’s soft grounder to pitcher Jim Johnson.
The Red Sox led Tampa Bay by nine games on Sept. 3. Now they also must hold off the Los Angeles Angels, who also are 2½ games out in the AL wild-card race after beating Toronto 7-2 on Wednesday.
The Red Sox have six games left — three at Yankee Stadium and three at Baltimore. Tampa Bay has seven remaining — four against the Yankees and three against Toronto.
Can the Red Sox, who straightened out their season after losing their first six games and 10 of their first 12, do it again?
“I think I can answer that better next Wednesday” after the regular-season finale, Francona said. “I’m not in a very good mood right now. We just lost a game, you know. We’ve lost a lot of games. We’re going to have to fight for everything we get the rest of the way.”
Ace Josh Beckett started for Boston, hoping to put more distance between Boston and the Rays. Beckett (13-6) allowed just one hit through five innings as the Red Sox built a 4-1 lead.
But he gave up a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh on Mark Reynolds’ second homer that tied the game.
In the eighth, Beckett gave up a single to J.J. Hardy and a double to Nick Markakis. Alfredo Aceves relieved with runners at second and third, then gave up Guerrero’s hard, two-run single to center field.
“You want to pitch good all year long, but especially whenever your team needs you,” Beckett said. “You need to give them innings and quality innings and that was something I wasn’t able to do.”
Clay Rapada (2-0) got the win on Wednesday and Johnson earned his ninth save in 14 chances — his third in as many days against Boston.
“It’s pretty tough,” Beckett said. “I wish I could have done better today. Things didn’t work out. I got away with some pitches early and I didn’t get away with them later on.”
Carl Crawford, who has struggled most of the season after signing a seven-year, $142 million contract, had a single, double and triple for Boston and drove in two runs.
“That’ll be welcome if he wants to get real hot like he can,” Francona said. “That’ll really help us.”
Reynolds hit a solo homer in the second before Boston tied the game in the third on a triple by Crawford and an RBI groundout by Jason Varitek.
Crawford gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead in the fourth with a two-run double after a single by Adrian Gonzalez and a double by Dustin Pedroia. Consecutive singles by Mike Aviles, Gonzalez and David Ortiz made it 4-1 in the fifth against Tommy Hunter, who left the game with two outs in the seventh with a strained right groin.
The Orioles added a run in the sixth when Andino singled, stole second and scored on a single by Hardy. They tied it in the seventh when Matt Wieters singled and was forced out at second on a grounder by Adam Jones before Reynolds hit his 36th homer of the season — his second of the game over the Green Monster in left field.
Yanks win AL East title
NEW YORK — Jorge Posada came off the bench and helped the Yankees to yet another first-place finish with a go-ahead single in the eighth inning, and New York swept the Tampa Bay Rays by identical 4-2 scores in a day-night doubleheader Wednesday to win the AL East.
Accomplishing most of their regular-season goals with a week to spare, the Yankees earned their 16th playoff berth in 17 seasons by winning the day game behind Robinson Cano’s tiebreaking, two-run double in the eighth.
They didn’t bother celebrating after that one — Yankees blase at its best — but vowed to let loose when they ensured the division crown. They made good on that promise, donning goggles and spraying the bubbly in the clubhouse.
For the Rays, it was a damaging day as they missed a chance to move up on Boston in the AL wild-card race.