BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 28: Members of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox 4-3 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Boston Red Sox completed their September collapse in horrific and historic fashion, falling out of the playoff chase by allowing two ninth-inning runs in a 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.
The Red Sox held a nine-game lead in the AL wild-card race after Sept. 3, but a 7-19 swoon left them tied with Tampa Bay entering the final day of the regular season.
Only minutes after this game ended, the Rays completed their comeback from a 7-0 deficit with an 8-7 win over the New York Yankees in 12 innings.
Even if Tampa Bay lost, the Red Sox faced the prospect of a quick turnaround following a long night at Camden Yards that included a rain delay of 1 hour, 26 minutes in the middle of the seventh inning.
When the rain came, Tampa Bay trailed 7-0. By the time play resumed, the Rays and Yankees were tied at 7 heading into the 10th inning.
The Orioles won the game in the ninth against Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon (4-1), who struck out the first two batters before giving up a double to Chris Davis. Nolan Reimold followed with a double to score pinch-runner Kyle Hudson, and Robert Andino completed the comeback with a single to left that Carl Crawford couldn't glove.
Boston became the first team to miss the postseason after leading by as many as nine games for a playoff spot entering September, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Jim Johnson (6-5) worked the ninth for Baltimore.
Dustin Pedroia homered for the Red Sox, who went through the entire month of September without winning consecutive games.
Pitching on three days' rest, Jon Lester limited the last-place Orioles to two runs and four hits over six gritty innings. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Red Sox from absorbing one final blow.
Boston had several chances to pad a 3-2 lead it took in the fifth inning but was never able to complete the task.
After Pedroia hit a solo homer off Alfredo Simon in the fifth, the Orioles got the potential tying run to third base in the bottom half and in the sixth before Lester worked out of trouble.
In the seventh, Boston's David Ortiz was thrown out trying to stretch a single, and with two outs rookie catcher Ryan Lavanway bounced into a fielder's choice. Lavanway, who homered twice in an 8-7 win Tuesday, went 0 for 5 and stranded nine runners.
The Red Sox blew another chance to increase the lead in the eighth when Marco Scutaro took off from first base on a double by Crawford. But Scutaro stutter-stepped before getting to third and was out at the plate.
In the ninth, Lavanway grounded into a double play with one out and the bases loaded. It was the third time he came to the plate following an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez.
The Red Sox went up 1-0 in the third when Mike Aviles walked, took second on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury and scored on a single by Pedroia. Ellsbury's single extended his hitting streak against Baltimore to 36 games, dating to April 2009.
J.J. Hardy hit a two-run homer in the bottom half, only minutes after the scoreboard showed the Yankees increasing their lead over Tampa Bay to 5-0. Hardy's 30th homer followed a leadoff walk to Davis.
Boston pulled even in the fourth when Scutaro doubled, advanced on a groundout and scored on a balk.