First Pitch: Tuesday, September 27

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First Pitch: Tuesday, September 27

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome toFirst Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Monday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

SO NOW IT'S DOWN TO . . . Eighteen innings. And Curt Schilling knows where the responsibility lies. (twitter.com)

Though Peter Gammons knows where the fault lies. (twitter.com)

The Red Sox' lead in the wild-card race is gone, thanks to last night's 6-3 loss in Baltimore (csnne.com) coupled with the Rays' 5-2 win over the Yankees. (Tampa Tribune) The Sox, for the first time, no longer control their playoff destiny; even if they win the last two against the Orioles, they need the Rays to lose at one of their last two against New York to avoid a play-in game Thursday against Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. And considering the Sox went 1-6 against the Rays in September, I'm sure we're all feeling really confident about that one.

But truth is, it's hard to find anyone who expects the Sox to get to Thursday. Hard to find anyone who believes they can win these last two -- they're 6-19 this month and haven't won two in a row since Aug. 27 -- and avoid a collapse that, according to SB Nation's Rob Neyer, would be the worst in history.

That's what it's felt like, too.

AND WHY? Because the Sox are being let down by the players they need to carry them.

Last night it was Josh Beckett, losing his second straight to the woeful Orioles (csnne.com). The Sox' two aces, Beckett and Jon Lester, are 2-5 with an ERA of 5.73 in September; since Sept. 11, their ERA is 8.18. (Boston Globe) As good as Jacoby Ellsbury has been, last night's game turned on a play he should have made (csnne.com), according to both Steve Buckley and Lou Merloni.

And they're hardly the only ones. Yes, the Sox have had injuries and, yes, perhaps the front office could have provided more depth, and, yes, perhaps Terry Francona could have infused the team with a sense of urgency far earlier than he did. But if Beckett and Lester had pitched like Beckett and Lester, if the offense had produced consistently instead of at this maddening feast-or-famine rate, if Daniel Bard hadn't chosen the worst couple of games to implode, if the defense hadn't shattered, the Sox would be getting ready for the postseason now.

They still have a shot, but it's hard to turn on a dime. Which makes it hard to believe that a turnaround is coming.

MORE GOOD NEWS: The Yankees -- whom the Sox desperately need to beat the Rays -- are playing these last two games like it's the last week of spring training. (ESPN New York)

BUT AT LEAST . . . there won't be a three-way tie for the wild card; the Angels are out. (baseballmusings.com)

MLB ump saves woman attempting to jump from Pittsburgh bridge

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MLB ump saves woman attempting to jump from Pittsburgh bridge

PITTSBURGH -- John Tumpane can't explain why he approached the woman as she hopped over the railing of the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

The woman told Tumpane she just wanted to get a better view of the Allegheny River below. The look on her face and the tone of her voice suggested otherwise to Tumpane, a major league baseball umpire in town to work the series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays.

So the 34-year-old Tumpane reached for the woman even as she urged him to let her go.

"It was just pure instinct," Tumpane said . "You hear kind of stories of this all the time, different scenarios, people aiding and situation where I was lucky enough to be there to help and try to think of everything I could do, hanging on to her. At times she wanted to go the other way. I was like, 'not on my watch, please.' We were just hanging on."

And saving a life.

Tumpane secured one of her arms. A bystander walked up and grabbed the other while another -- Mike Weinman, an employee for the Rays -- clutched her legs and pinned them to the railing while Tumpane mouthed to someone in the crowd to call 911.

What followed were chaotic moments of panic, fear and ultimately, grace.

"I couldn't tell you how long we were waiting for everyone else to get in place," Tumpane said. 'Obviously another power comes into be when you're hanging on and you know what the alternative is of you letting go and not having other people to help you."

Tumpane, Weinman and the third volunteer clung to the unidentified woman until emergency responders arrived. A police boat raced up the river to the iconic yellow bridge named for the Pirates Hall of Famer who died on Dec. 31, 1972, when a plane making humanitarian deliveries to earthquake victims in Nicaragua crashed. Now, 45 years later a crowd thrust together by fate brought a complete stranger back from the brink. Together.

"Once they were able to secure her, we were able to talk her back to help us out and we got her back on this side," Tumpane said. "After that I went up to her, she said, 'You'll just forget me after this' and I said, 'No, I'll never forget you.' This was an unbelievable day and I'm glad to say she can have another day with us and I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time."

Tumpane, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, got into umpiring as a teenager, made his major-league debut in 2012 and received his full-time MLB commission in 2016, stressed he's no hero.

"I just happened to be there," he said. "I think I've been a caring person in my life. I saw somebody in need, and it looked like a situation to obviously insert myself and help out."

The aftermath was a bit surreal. After the woman was taken away, Tumpane called his wife, his arms still shaking.

"Not too many times you call your wife and say you helped save somebody's life," he said. "A really special moment."

One that stayed with him even as he prepared to call balls and strikes behind home plate Wednesday night. During breaks in the action his eyes would drift to the bridge just a few hundred feet behind the center field wall at PNC Park.

"It's also hard when you stand back behind home plate and look and you see the bridge in the distance, In between innings and whatnot, just thinking of how things could have maybe been," he said. "Glad it was this way."

Tumpane has no experience in crisis management or suicide prevention. He's spent 16 years living the nomadic life of an umpire. Asked what was going through his head while he tried to coax the woman back to safety, Tumpane just shrugged his shoulders. How do you explain the unexplainable?

"I happened to be in the right spot at the right time," he said. "Tried to be as comforting as I could and talk her through it. Thankfully that was the outcome."