By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Et tu, Josh Beckett?
As hard as it seems to fathom, Beckett, the Sox most stable starting pitcher for most of the season, became the latest in string of September atrocities, as the Red Sox fell to the Orioles, 6-4, Thursday night at Fenway Park.
The Sox, careening through this last month of the season, appeared to be in good stead with Beckett taking the mound to face the Os, owners of the second-worst record in the American League and third-worst overall. Instead, the Sox -- who finished the 10-game homestand at 3-7, their worst record in a homestand of six games or more since going 1-5 from Aug. 31-Sept. 6, 2001 -- fell to 5-16 this month, their most losses in September since they went 11-17 in 1993.
Beckett went 7 13 innings, the longest outing by a Sox starting pitcher since Tim Wakefield went eight in a loss to the Mariners on Aug. 14. He gave up six runs (all earned) on seven hits and a walk with eight strikeouts and two home runs.
Beckett appeared to be cruising, allowing only one run, a Mark Reynolds solo homer in the second, through the first five innings. When his offense gave him a run in the third, two more in the fourth, and another in the fifth, it appeared Beckett had all he would need.
But the Os got a run in the sixth to cut it to 4-2, then added two more on Reynolds second homer of the night in seventh, tying the game.
Beckett came back out for the eighth, and got the first out. But, two batters later after a single by J.J. Hardy and a ground-rule double by Nick Markakis Becketts night was done, making way for Alfredo Aceves to face Vladimir Guerrero.
Although Aceves has been so reliable for much of the year, he like most of the other Sox pitchers this month faltered. Aceves gave up a two-run single on an 0-and-1 pitch, giving the Os a lead they would hold onto for the final score.
Its pretty tough, Beckett said. I wish I could have done better today. Things just didnt work out. I got away with some pitches early. I didnt get away with them later on.
You want to pitch good all year long, especially when your team needs you. You want to give them innings and quality innings. Thats something I wasnt able to do today.
Not many starting pitchers have been able to do that lately, either. Becketts outing raised the already abysmal starting pitchers ERA this month to 6.82. The Sox have just three quality starts this month.
Well, improvement has got to be on the horizon then, because they've done it and they've done it at different times this year and we need it, said Jason Varitek. Weve got a day off tomorrow and were still in a spot where weve got the six games to make sure we control our own destiny.
All the runs were charged to Beckett -- the most hes given up in his 29 outings this season, and the most since he allowing six to the Angels on Aug. 18, 2010. His 6.38 ERA against the Os this season is Becketts highest against any AL team.
With Beckett taking the loss Wednesday and Jonathan Papelbon on Tuesday, the Sox have lost at the hands of two of their most consistent pitchers.
Losings hard anyway, said manager Terry Francona. But when you lose with the guys you rely on it's tough."
The primary question: How can a team fighting for its playoff life play like the Sox have down the stretch and lose three of four to such a hapless opponent?
We havent certainly put our best foot forward, Francona said.
We didnt score more runs than them, said Dustin Pedroia. Needed to do that.
Theres been different things that have matched up, literally when weve pitched well, we havent swung the bats well, Varitek said. Weve had freaky things happen defensively. This, that, and the other. I think weve been through every part of it right now.
What do the Sox do now?
We can play better. Thats basically it, Pedroia said.
The Rays and the surging Angels are now each 2 12 games behind the Sox for the A.L. wild card, with the Sox magic number at 5. Boston has a day off Thursday, then travels to New York for three games beginning Friday and Baltimore for three games to end the regular season.
Well be excited to play the Yankees, Francona said. Well take tomorrow and kind of regroup and get ourselves set up and go see if we can play a little bit better.
If they dont, they will have a lot of time this winter to think about it.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.