First pitch: Nothing a trade or two can fix

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First pitch: Nothing a trade or two can fix

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Even now, after four straight losses that have dropped them beneath the .500 mark and destroyed whatever momentum was built a week ago, the Red Sox cannot be counted out of the playoff race in the American League.

Thanks to the addition of the second wild card, few teams are out of contention and won't be for be for some time. If you're anywhere near the break-even point, you're not too far from a spot in the post-season.

Of course, much of it illusory. There's nothing necessarily distinguished about a .500 record that offers the empty promise of a one-game playoff against a superior opponent.

But the second wild card provides false hope.

The Red Sox' 9-1 thumping at the hands of the Texas Rangers Monday night may have represented a new low in an already disappointment-filled season. The Sox were flat, as their sloppy play in the field demonstrated. A wild throwing error by second baseman Dustin Pedroia and a careless overrun by outfielder Carl Crawford contributed to
three of the nine runs.

More to the point, what does it say that the Red Sox sent out their winningest pitcher Monday night while the Rangers sent out a spot starter who hadn't pitched in the second half -- and the Rangers won by eight runs?

Pitting the Sox against the Rangers, head-to-head, only shows the yawning gap that exists between the Sox and honest-to-goodness contenders.

Things could get worse, too. There are two more games left with the Rangers here, leading to a three-game set in New York, with the Detroit Tigers waiting for the Sox when they return home to Fenway Monday, a day before the non-waiver trading deadline.

If the Sox fall further behind -- as seems almost inevitable given the rut they're currently in -- then management might subtly shift gears into "sell'' mode as the deadline nears. Why invest in a club that has little chance of making an impact in October?

After all, the Sox have done little to convince Ben Cherginton and ownership that they are only a player or two from becoming legitimate threats to reach the World Series.

Dustin Pedroia, for one, hasn't given up and hopes management feels the same way.

"We hope not,'' said Pedroia. "That second wild card could come down to the last week of the season. I was talking to (bullpen coach) Gary Tuck on the bus and he tells me every year, 'Look at the standings Sept. 15 and see where you're at.' I remember 2010, we had half of our starters hurt and you loom up on Sept. 15 and we were still there.

"So, we've got to keep fighting. That's our mindset.''

No one is making the case for giving up, of course. But doubling down is another matter altogether.

Is there a case to be made that this team deserves the benefit of the doubt? Surrendering anything in the way of prospects for a (relative) short-term boost would seem foolish.

If the Sox were truly a player away -- as they've been at past deadlines -- a deal would make sense. But with a good half-dozen teams standing in between the Sox and a ticket to October, there's far more work to be done and pulling the trigger on a deal before next Tuesday afternoon would seem shortsighted and could actually derail the effort in the big picture.

Sacrificing a future building block for the reward of a cross-country flight to Anaheim and a one-game win-or-go-home match sounds like little incentive.

Not even a sudden unexpected winning streak in the next week should distract the Sox from the task at hand. There's more that ails the Sox than a simple trade or two in the next week, a point that shouldn't be lost regardless of the outcome of the next six games.

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.