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Collapse continues for Red Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 22, 2011 12:52 AM

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AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Josh Beckett had a 4-1 lead going into the sixth inning and set down the first batter he faced, Matt Angle, on a fly ball to right field. It was the 11th straight batter he had retired.

That's a game you have to win. Baltimore is a bad team and the Red Sox desperately needed to win, especially given the opportunity to further expand their lead on the Rays.

But Beckett melted down. From that point, six of the next 12 batters had hits off the righthander and one of the outs was a screaming liner to center that Jacoby Ellsbury made a terrific catch on.

Beckett was finally pulled in the eighth inning. With the score tied, 4-4, he had put runners on second and third with one out. In came Alfredo Aceves, who was given specific instructions not to throw a strike to free-swinging Vladimir Guerrero.

He threw strike one and Guerrero, amazingly, took it. He threw another strike and Guerrero rifled it into center field, driving in two runs.

The Sox offense, meanwhile, folded up. Tommy Hunter and three relievers retired the final 11 batters in order. One ball left the infield. Once the Sox had a 4-1 lead in the fifth, they had one more hit.

“It’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that around here as long as I’ve been here,” a somber David Ortiz said. “If you would have told me in August this would happen in September, I would have laughed at you.”

The Red Sox were a half-game out of first place and on pace to win 98 games on Sept. 3. They since have lost 14 of 18 and are now in a desperate fight to make the postseason.

“I’ve been here nine years. We’ve never collapsed that bad,” Ortiz said. “Trust me, we’ve been through some tough times. But this is bad. No matter what we do, things are going to be bad. … Right now it’s depressing.”

Despite the loss, the Sox increased their lead in the wild card race to 2.5 games over the Tampa Bay Rays, who were swept in a doubleheader by the AL East champion Yankees.

Look out for the Angels. Los Angeles beat Toronto and is now tied with the Rays.

How sad is it for Sox fans that the Yankees are doing more to put your team in the playoffs than your own team is? Somehow, the Yankees are carrying the Sox.

“I’m not in a very good mood right now. We just lost a game, we’ve just lost a lot of games,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’re going to have to fight for everything we get the rest of the way and make it happen to get where we want to go.

"We certainly haven’t made it very easy for ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t get where we want to go. But we have our work cut out for ourselves.”

The Red Sox are 5-16 in September.

“That’s a sign of a [expletive] team. Good teams don’t go 5-16 in any month,” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who sat slumped in a chair at his locker after the game, staring straight ahead in apparent disbelief.

The loss also left the Red Sox 45-36 at home, their worst record since the 2002 team was 42-39. The Sox dropped 20 of their final 33 games at Fenway Park and were 3-7 on the last homestand.

The next game won’t be until April unless the Sox can find some answers on the road.

“Is there anything left we can try? We can play better,” Pedroia said. “That’s basically it.”

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