David Ortiz looked right at home during the Red Sox’ celebration Wednesday night. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)
NEW YORK — The corks were popping. The champagne was flowing. The goggles were distributed. And the hugs were found in all corners of the visitors clubhouse.
All of this after one of the most devastating losses of the season
The Red Sox had just allowed what normally would be classified as one of the biggest punch-in-the-gut defeats of the year, blowing a three-run lead in the ninth to eventually suffer a 5-3, walk off loss at the hands of the Yankees.
And at that moment Mark Teixeira’s game-winning grand slam cleared the Yankee Stadium center field fence, the red Sox looked the part, trudging off the field. And the pitcher who surrendered the blast, Joe Kelly, certainly felt the sting. That was until he got into the clubhouse and saw plastic hanging everywhere.
“The plastic was already up, so I knew,” Kelly said.
But, unlike most of his teammates the relief pitcher didn’t realize that the Red Sox had actually clinched the American League East just as the bottom of the ninth was beginning thanks to Baltimore’s win over the Blue Jays.
“I was the first one through the dugout and the first one in the clubhouse, upset obviously, and I came in and realized all the stuff was up, the shirts were out, alcohol was everywhere,” Kelly said. “That instant I knew that we clinched. I still wasn’t very happy about what happened. A minute later, I was the first one to take my jersey off, take my cleats off, take my belt off. A couple guys came in: [David] Price, [Rick] Porcello, [Clay] Buchholz. They came in and say, ‘Hey, man, we clinched. Forget about it. It’s one pitch. You’ve pitched big innings for us the last month and been a big help.’ It’s one of those things, there aren’t many times you give up a walk off grand slam and be happy about it a minute later.”
According to party’s participants, seemingly from the minute the Red Sox got back into their plastic-covered clubhouse, the loss had been forgotten.
“One inning should not take away from the fact that they’re AL East champions,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We are AL East champions. It’s been a hard fought bottle, they should be proud of the work that they put in but by no means is this the end. This is just the beginning of our postseason.”
“I think we were kind of in shock, but it happened,” said Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. “As soon as we got in here, we quickly got over it.”
“It was crazy,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. “I wanted to celebrate on that field so bad. But it is what it is – at the end, being the first-place team in the American League East, we’re going to celebrate anyway.”
And celebrate they did.
The image portrayed in the clubhouse was no different than any other clinching celebration. Everybody wearing anything Red Sox-related was soaked with champagne, including president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. One of the few who did manage to avoid getting doused was principal owner John Henry, who weaved his way in and out of the locker room before any damage could be done.
“It doesn’t detract at all from what these guys accomplished over the last six months,” Henry said of the loss. “Baseball is an endurance test, so it takes six months to determine a champion and that championship was determined before this game ended.”