Vazquez lasted just four innings in a 9-3 loss to Minnesota that pulled the Twins within 1 1/2 games of Chicago in the AL Central race on Tuesday night.
Tim Wakefield outpitched Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon needed just one pitch to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth to help the Red Sox beat the Indians 5-4 and clinch at least a wild-card berth.
Boston’s win ensured that Derek Jeter won’t be playing in October for the first time in his career. Even though the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 3-1, New York was eliminated from playoff contention after 13 straight postseason appearances.
“It basically boils down to we weren’t good enough,” Jeter said. “That’s the only way you can put it. Our team didn’t play well enough the whole season in order to get to where we needed to be. It’s a huge disappointment. That’s pretty much all you can say.”
In other AL games, it was: Tampa Bay 5, Baltimore 2, 1st game; Tampa Bay 7, Baltimore 5, 2nd game; Texas 6, Oakland 4; Kansas City 5, Detroit 0; and Seattle 9, Los Angeles 6.
At Boston, Jason Bay’s go-ahead single helped the Red Sox clinch. Wakefield (10-11) allowed four runs and six hits in six innings, striking out six. It’s his 10th season in Boston with 10 or more wins, tying Roger Clemens for the most in franchise history.
“I feel like a kid, jumping around spraying champagne with all these guys,” Bay said. “It’s been a different journey for me.”
The Red Sox still have a chance to win the AL East, where Tampa Bay holds a three-game lead after sweeping the Orioles in a doubleheader.
“We still have a chance to win the division and win it all,” center fielder Coco Crisp said. “I think we have a better shot this year than we did last year.”
Once the much-maligned owners of an 86-year championship drought, the Red Sox have won two titles in the last four seasons and missed the playoffs once since 2003. They have not won back-to-back World Series since 1915 and ’16, but they’ll have a chance to repeat when the playoffs start next week.
“We’re dangerous in the playoffs,” said designated hitter David Ortiz, who wore goggles to protect his eyes from the champagne. “Everybody knows that.”
Lee (22-3), the favorite to win the AL Cy Young award, had won 11 straight decisions in 13 starts since picking up his second loss on July 6. He allowed five runs and nine hits with three walks in seven innings, striking out eight; it was his third consecutive start allowing four or more runs.
“He wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s that time of year. That might have something to do with it.”
At Minneapolis, Vazquez (12-15) gave up five runs and seven hits, including a two-run homer and a triple to Jason Kubel, whose Twins practically need a sweep to position themselves for a fifth division title in seven years.
“I know Javy is a good pitcher,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “You don’t pitch that many innings and strike out 200 batters and not be a good pitcher. We didn’t help him out much today.”
Kubel went 3-for-4 with two homers in the game, going back-to-back with Delmon Young off Boone Logan in the seventh to put the game out of reach and start this crucial three-game series in emphatic fashion.
“If we lost tonight, that’s almost the season right there,” Kubel said. “It’s one we really needed to have and it just sets up the rest of the series and gives us extra confidence after tonight.”
Scott Baker (10-4) gave up one run and five hits in seven innings, easily outshining Vazquez, whose ability to come through in pressure situations has been questioned for 10 years, most recently on Sunday by his own manager.
“I don’t read the newspapers,” Vazquez said when asked about Guillen’s comments. “I don’t read the papers or anything.”
At Toronto, Mike Mussina pitched five shutout innings to earn his 19th win and Jason Giambi homered. It wasn’t enough to keep New York’s slim postseason hopes alive.
Mussina said New York’s elimination had felt inevitable for some time.
“We’ve been disappointed for a little longer than just today,” Mussina said. “It’s been a tough summer for us. We expected more out of ourselves than what has happened.”
Rays 5, Orioles 2, Game 1; Ray 7, Orioles 5, Game 2
At Baltimore, Tampa Bay reduced its magic number to win the AL East to two with a franchise first: a doubleheader sweep.
After James Shields pitched seven effective innings in the opener, the Rays rallied to win the nightcap, that combined with Boston’s victory over Cleveland, left them three games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East in pursuit of their first division title.
In the second game, Tampa Bay trailed 5-1 before Evan Longoria homered and pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro singled in two runs off Jamie Walker (1-3) in a six-run eighth. The Rays had five hits through the first seven innings and six in the eighth.
Mariners 9, Angels 6
At Seattle, Kenji Johjima drove in three runs to lead the Mariners’ comeback from a four-run deficit that snapped a 12-game losing streak.
Gary Matthews Jr. had a two-run homer in the second for the Angels and Mike Napoli’s added a three-run blast in the fourth. Napoli had three hits.
It was a game with varying significance for both teams. The Angels (97-60) are trying to hold off Tampa Bay (95-62) for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs while the Mariners (58-99) are barely fending off 100 losses.
Royals 5, Tigers 0
At Detroit, Zack Greinke (13-10) and Leo Nunez combined on a four-hitter to lift Kansas City.
Mike Aviles, Ryan Shealy and Alex Gordon homered for Kansas City, which has won 10 of its last 12.
Freddy Garcia (1-1) gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings.
Rangers 6, Athletics 4
At Arlington, Texas, Hank Blalock hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh and Texas snapped its five-game losing streak.
Jack Cust and Travis Buck homered for Oakland, which had won four straight and eight of nine.