Monday October 1, 2012

BALTIMORE -- The Boston Red Sox are in the middle of the AL East pennant race, although not exactly in the fashion they envisioned at the beginning of the season.

At this point, however, the Red Sox can't even fulfill their role as spoilers.

After losing three in a row to the Orioles, the last one 6-3 on Sunday, the Red Sox now head to New York to face the Yankees in a season-ending, three-game series.

Baltimore clinched its first playoff berth since 1997, but not until late Sunday when the Texas Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels 8-7 in the finale of a day-night doubleheader.

Baltimore and New York are in a first-place tie in the division, and the Red Sox are in last. The last time Boston (69-90) lost 90 games was in 1966.

"We haven't had a good season," manager Bobby Valentine acknowledged.

Boston fell behind 5-0 in the third inning. Red Sox starter Zack Stewart (0-2) surrendered two homers, including a leadoff shot by Nate McLouth, and lasted only 22 3 innings.

"Seemed like first-inning jitters," Valentine said. "Had the ball up a little. Before you know it, it's five runs."

Pitching in front of a crowd of 41,257, Stewart liked the atmosphere but didn't care for the results.

"I like playing in that situation. It gets your adrenaline going," he said. "Those guys, they're basically on the gas pedal right now. They're doing a good job. That was one of those deals where they beat us all series, and I guess they had their foot on our throat right there and pushed down."

Cody Ross and Daniel Nava homered for the Red Sox, who have dropped five straight and 16 of 22.

McLouth, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis hit solo homers, and Jim Thome drove in two runs for Baltimore. The Orioles completed a sweep and went 13-5 against Boston, their most wins in a single season versus the Red Sox since 1970 (13-5).