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The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim popped the champagne bottles Wednesday night to celebrate their fourth AL West title in five seasons after defeating the Yankees 4-2. The Red Sox, meanwhile, fell further back in their quest for a second straight AL East title, losing to the Rays 4-2 in 14 innings. Boston is now 2.5 games behind Tampa Bay for first place in the AL East and just five games ahead of Minnesota in the Wild Card race.
Tied 1-1 in the 14th inning Wednesday night, former Sox 1B Carlos Pena blasted a go-ahead three-run HR to help the Rays to a 4-2 victory. The resilient Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half of the inning, but could only bat one man home and the Rays left town up 2.5 games, winning the final two games by a combined three runs.
The Red Sox failed in a golden opportunity to grab hold of the AL East from the reeling Rays. First, on Tuesday, Jason Bay provided the Sox with a one-run lead Tuesday night, but Jonathan Papelbon could not close the door on the Rays. Papelbon, pitching in his third straight game, coughed up the lead and may have coughed up more. Instead of leaving Boston with a 1/2 game deficit or 1/2 game lead, Tampa Bay left with a 2.5 game lead following close wins Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Sox are running out of time to take the AL East, but do have three more critical games against the Rays in Tampa Bay next week. In the meantime, the Sox must continue to play good baseball in order to keep pace. The more likely scenario is the Rays winning the division and facing the AL Central Champ (Minnesota or Chicago) and the Sox winning the Wild Card and squaring off with those same L.A. Angels. Yes…the only team sipping champagne Wednesday night.