BOSTON – Carlos Pena and Ben Francisco hit back-to-back, tape-measure homers in the fifth inning Wednesday night to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to their seventh consecutive victory, 4-2 over the Boston Red Sox.
The Rays remained 31/2 games behind Baltimore for second in the AL East and 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. “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.”
Before the game, the Red Sox honored some of their great players on the field as members of the “All Fenway Park Team.”
The ceremony capped a year of celebrations for the ballpark’s 100th anniversary.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia and designated hitter David Ortiz were the only players from this year’s team on the 40-man roster. Also among the two dozen attending the ceremony were Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.
The members of the team each threw a ceremonial first pitch to players on the current roster.
Once the game began, 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 fly to right. The stolen base was Pedroia’s second of the game and 100th of his career.
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.
CARL YASTRZEMSKI said he thinks that being in a pennant race will help Miguel Cabrera of Detroit in his attempt to win the Triple Crown.
And Yaz should know: He’s the last player to lead his league in batting average, homers and RBI in the same season.
“In ’67, the Triple Crown was never even mentioned once,” Yastrzemski said. “We were so involved in the pennant race, I didn’t know I won the Triple Crown until the next day, when I read it in the paper.”
Yastrzemski batted .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBI in 1967, when the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox clinched the AL pennant on the last day of the season. Yaz said only once did someone bring up the stat races to him, when pitcher Jim Lonborg told him he would help out by shutting down Frank Robinson of Baltimore.