BOSTON Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine’s last home game of season ended like so many others this year — another loss.
Soon he’ll find out if it was his final one ever.
Carlos Pena and Ben Francisco hit back-to-back, tape-measure homers in the fifth inning off Jon Lester on Wednesday night to lead the surging Tampa Bay Rays past the Red Sox, 4-2.
Before the game, Valentine said he hadn’t had any discussions with management about his future.
“No there hasn’t been any dialogue,” he said. “I mean, we’ve talked, which makes me think I’m coming back.”
Valentine, who has one year remaining on his contract, was hired to inspire a fractious clubhouse after the team went 7-20 last September under Terry Francona. Instead, he presided over what could be the worst Red Sox team since 1965.
Boston finished the season 34-47 at Fenway Park, matching the futile mark in 1965.
“They’ve been great all year showing up all year when we’ve stunk,” Lester said, standing in a clubhouse cluttered with boxes in front of about eight completely empty lockers with about a half dozen name tags removed.
“They keep trying to get us on track and we just haven’t really played good ball,” he said.
The Red Sox lost nine of their final 11 games at home.
“Disappointing,” Valentine said of the home failures. “We didn’t walk off many (times) and didn’t score enough runs. We’ve got a lot saved up for next year.”
The Rays remained 3 1-2 games behind Baltimore for second place in the AL East. Tampa Bay began the day three games behind Oakland for the second wild-card spot.
“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 before the game. “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,” he said.
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.
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 medium fly ball to right field. The stolen base was Pedroia’s second of the game and the 100th of his career.
The Red Sox had some of their all-time greats on the field before the game to help close Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary season, with former captain Carl Yastrzemski pronouncing, “The Red Sox will be back.”
Although the game was Boston’s 793rd consecutive announced sellout – its fifth straight year over 3 million for the season – the ballpark was mostly empty when Rodney struck out Daniel Nava to end the game.
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.
They will close the season with three games in Baltimore and three at Yankee Stadium.
NOTES: It was the fifth time the Rays had hit back-to-back homers this season. … Before the game the Red Sox honored their All Fenway Park Team, with two dozen former players on the field for the ceremony. David Ortiz and Pedroia were the only current players on the 40-man All-Fenway roster. The ceremony capped a yearlong celebration of Fenway’s 100th anniversary. … The final season attendance of 3,043,003 was the smallest since 2007, though just by about 3,400. … Cobb, who was pitching on eight days’ of rest, has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six straight starts. … The teams split the season series 9-9. … The Rays made it 4-2 in the seventh on an RBI double by Jose Lobaton.