First pitch: Reality is it can get worse from here

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First pitch: Reality is it can get worse from here

The losses pile up now, like yesterday's trash, one on top of the other, each indistinguishable from the next.

Nobody mentions the playoffs any more, for good reason -- the Red Sox are now closer in the standings to the worst record in the league (Minnesota) than they are to the team leading the wild card chase (Oakland).

There are now more hollow promises about "getting healthy and making a run,'' no predictions that, pretty soon, things will click.

Those are all gone now. Wednesday's one-sided loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pushed the Red Sox one day closer to the end, one step closer to total irrelevance.

And here's the thing: It can still get worse.

There are still 38 games remaining, almost a quarter of the season. Included in that stretch are 22 road games, almost all against teams with better records.

Actually, when it comes to the home-road split in the final six weeks, location is almost irrelevant. At 29-36, Sox have one of the worst home records in the league.

You name it, and it's a concern. Two games into the Randy Niemann Era, the starting pitching is as poor as it's been all season, though Niemann can hardly be expected to exact an overnight turnaround in performance.

The offense has scored three runs or fewer in 8 of the last 12 games and seem to limit their damage to an inning -- sometimes two -- per night.

The fight seems to have left them. Rallies are almost non-existent; comebacks appear to be a thing of the past. Over the last five games, the Red Sox have been scoreless in 36 of the last 45 innings, or 80 percent of the time.

Injuries, of course, are a factor. David Ortiz remains sidelined and there's no telling how much his mere presence is missed in the middle of the lineup. It doesn't help that Will Middlebrooks, one of just two righthanded regulars with a slugging percentage above .420, is out for the remainder of the season with a broken wrist.

And so, the lineup takes on the look of a split-squad sent to Bradenton on March morning -- journeyman and role players sprinkled in among some regulars in the hopes of passing as a major league lineup.

With Middlebrooks and Carl Crawford gone for the year and Ortiz still at least a few days away, Bobby Valentine is left to mix and match almost daily. In late August.

And it shows.

"We just can't seem to string a good inning together here and there and gain any momentum offensively,'' lamented outfielder Scott Podsednik. "When you look at good offensive clubs, they do that -- they take what's given to them, they grind out at-bats and keep coming at you.

"We're potetnially trying to do too much. Each player is trying to be that guy to get things going and it's counterproductive.''

In part because of the injuries and roster churn, the team lacks an identity, and as such, lacks consistency.

"There's been so many new personalities coming in and trying to jell,'' noted Podsednik. "You've got to have 25 guys, day-in, day-out all on the same page. So, yes, that might have something to do with it. The goal should be, each and every night, is to play for one another, pick each other up. We've had so many new faces, so many guys trying to come in and establish themselves, that I think it's hard for this whole team to get into a good rhythm and get in the right frame of mind to play, day-in and day-out.''

And here's the hard part: It's not over yet. Not by a long shot.

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.