BOSTON — Carlos Pena and Ben Francisco hit back-to-back, tape-measure homers in the fifth inning on Wednesday night to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to their seventh consecutive victory, 4-2 over the Boston Red Sox.
The Rays remained 3 1-2 games behind Baltimore for second place in the AL East. Tampa Bay began the day three games behind Oakland for the second wild-card spot.
It was the final home game of the season for the Red Sox, and perhaps the last at Fenway Park for Boston manager Bobby Valentine. Hired to inspire a fractious clubhouse after the team went 7-20 last September under Terry Francona, Valentine instead presided over what could be the worst Red Sox team since 1965.
“When you don’t accomplish what you set out to do, you don’t feel like you’ve done a good job. Simple,” Valentine said before the game. “When I come back next year, I’ll think I’m prepared to handle it. Hopefully, we’ll have better results.”
“Not much I would have done differently, I don’t think, other than I think would have kept the beer in the clubhouse. I think I could have used one after a few of those games,” he said.
Alex Cobb (10-9) allowed one run on three hits and a walk, striking out five in five innings as the Rays matched their longest winning streak of the season. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 45th save in 47 chances.
Jon Lester (9-14) gave up three runs on four hits and a walk, striking out five in six innings. He didn’t allow a hit until Jeff Keppinger singled to left with one out in the fifth, then he gave up back-to-back home runs.
Pena hit his 19th homer, nearly hitting the back wall behind the seats in straightaway center field. Francisco hit another long homer, this one off a billboard above the Green Monster seats, to make it 3-1.
The Red Sox cut the deficit to one run in the sixth when Dustin Pedroia walked, stole second, went to third on Cody Ross’ single and scored on James Loney’s medium fly ball to right field. The stolen base was Pedroia’s second of the game and the 100th of his career.
The Red Sox had some of their all-time greats on the field before the game to help close Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary season, with former captain Carl Yastrzemski pronouncing, “The Red Sox will be back.”
Although the game was Boston’s 793rd consecutive announced sellout — its fifth straight year over 3 million for the season — the ballpark was mostly empty when Rodney struck out Daniel Nava to end the game.
The Red Sox, who went 34-47 at Fenway, matched their worst home record since 1965 and still have a chance for their worst overall mark since they lost 100 games that season.
They will close the season with three games in Baltimore and three at Yankee Stadium.
Yankees 8, Twins 2
MINNEAPOLIS — In a second straight start, CC Sabathia looked like the ace he’s paid big money to be.
No time like the present to do so.
Completely dominating the Twins in a game his team badly needed, the lefthander pitched theYankees to an 8-2 victory in front of 33,251 at Target Field on Wednesday afternoon.
The Yankees (90-65), who won two of three from the Twins but were still kicking themselves for coughing up Tuesday night’s game, start a four-game set in Toronto on Thursday night. With seven games left, they took a two-game lead over the Orioles, who played the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
Sabathia got far more backing from his offense Wednesday than he did in his previous start against the Athletics when he pitched eight shutout innings in what was a 2-1 victory in 10 innings.
It was a somewhat odd game, one in which Twins righthanded starter Samuel Deduno left with two outs in the second inning with what was announced as “left eye irritation”, replaced by lefty Brian Duensing.
The Yankees’ lineup adjusted easily, erupting with a six-run third that blew the game open, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 6-1 lead. Robinson Cano, who had three hits Tuesday night, sparked the rally with a two-run double, the first of two doubles on the day.
Cano had been hitting just .219 against lefties this season.
“We’ve struggled with men on base,” Cano said of the Yankees, who went 4-for-10 with RISP on Wednesday. “But like I said, I put every game behind me. You go out there every game, every at-bat, and forget about what happened in the past.”
The Twins actually took the lead in the second, getting a one-out RBI single from Matt Carson, previously 1-for-9 in his career against Sabathia, that brought in Ryan Doumit, who singled to lead off the inning.
Duensing, to say the least, failed to provide a shutdown inning, as the Yankees sent 11 to the plate in the third.
“I think you have to,” Nick Swisher said of smelling blood in the water when Duensing was summoned on short notice. “That’s a tough spot to come in to.”
After Chris Stewart led off by grounding out, Chris Dickerson and Ichiro Suzuki, who had two hits to improve to 19-for-39 in his last 10 games, hit consecutive singles. A walk to Derek Jeter, whose 19-game hitting streak ended as he went 0-for-4, loaded the bases for Cano.
Cano, to that point 2-for-12 with the bases loaded and less than two outs this season, turned rightfielder Ben Revere around with a liner over his head, the double bringing in Dickerson and Ichiro to make it 2-1. Swisher followed with a single to right to bring in Jeter for a 3-1 lead and Curtis Granderson’s fourth triple of the season, a shot over the first base bag, brought in two more to make it 5-1. Duensing’s wild pitch scored Granderson for the fifth run of the inning, making it 6-1.
“That’s the game,” Sabathia said of the third-inning outburst. “Feels good to go out with a lead and try to go out and shut them down. I was able to do that tonight.”
Raul Ibañez started the sixth with a double and came in on Chris Dickerson’s second homer of the season, making it 8-1.
“I think just in general it feels like those early September woes are out the door,” Swisher said. “I feel like we’re playing our best ball now and this is the perfect time to be doing it.”