Beckett can't right the Sox' sinking ship

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Beckett can't right the Sox' sinking ship

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.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

Three Things we learned from the Boston Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

1) It only seems like David Ortiz can come through every time.

When Ortiz comes to the plate as he did Friday night -- bases loaded, no out, bottom of the ninth, Red Sox trailing by a run -- it seems like a win is a fait accompli.

"I think everybody in the ballpark just assumed this one might have a chance to be ended right there,'' said John Farrell. "He's been so big for us that everybody in the dugout felt the same way -- confident that the stage was set for him to come through with another dramatic moment.''

Instead, Ortiz rolled over a ground ball to second, and with the Twins infield drawn in, it was enough to turn a 4-2-3 double play that took the starch out of the inning for the Sox.

If anything, though, the inning revealed how remarkable Ortiz has been so often. It's not easy to come through even most times, and it's certainly far from automatic.

"The pitcher (closer Brandon Kintzler) made good pitches,'' said Ortiz. "That's the name of the game. I'm always looking forward to something happening. It just doesn't work out all the time.''

2) Eduardo Rodriguez has his slider back.

When Rodriguez endured a rough stretch in late May and June, he seemed to all but abandon his slider, relying almost exclusively on his two-seam fastball and changeup.

But since returning from a stint in Pawtucket, Rodriguez has flashed the slider that made him so effective as a rookie last season.

"Since he's come back,'' said Farrell, "he's added much more depth. He's able to get to the back foot of some righthanders for some swing-and-miss. He was on the plate with three quality pitches for strikes tonight.''

"I feel like I can locate it better, where I want it,'' confirmed Rodriguez. "Outside, inside corner...I'm getting more confident in it. I think I got out of my mind the tipping (pitches) stuff and all that stuff and I'm just working to throw the ball right where I want it.''

It's almost impossible for a starter in the big leagues to survive with just two pitches, as Rodriguez was attempting to do earlier this season. And it seems foolish to even try, given that Rodriguez's slider can be a plus-pitch for him at times.

3) If Mookie Betts has to miss some time, the Red Sox have options in right field.

Farrell said Betts has been dealing with soreness and stiffness in his right knee since after the All-Star break and has been undergoing treatment.

There's no evidence that this is serious, and he's considered day-to-day. But even if Betts needs some time off, or in a worse-case scenario, has to go on the DL, the Sox can do some things with their outfield.

Michael Martinez's best outfield position is right, as he demonstrated Friday night after taking over for Betts in the top of the fifth. Martinez ran a long way to grab a ball in foul territory for the final out in the sixth, then turned in a fine, tumbling catch in the eighth to take extra bases away from Adam Grossman.

Bryce Brentz, who's been in a platoon of sorts in left with Brock Holt, has played a lot of right field in the minors and has the arm strength to play there.

Finally, there's the matter of Andrew Benintendi. The Sox raised some eyebrows with the news that they were having Benintendi move over to left field at Double A Portland, perhaps in anticipation of playing the position for Boston at some point later this year.

Benintendi is a natural center fielder and even though he doesn't much experience in right, if you're athletic enough to play center, you can usually move to either corner spot.

Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

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Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Boston Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

QUOTES:

"I think everybody in the ballpark just assumed this one had a chance to be ended right there.'' - John Farrell on David Ortiz's at-bat with no out and the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

"I feel like I can locate it better - outside, inside corner -- so it's given me more confidence.'' - Eduardo Rodriguez on the improvement with his slider.

"I always look forward to something (good) happening; it just doesn't work out all the time.'' - David Ortiz on his ninth-inning at-bat.

NOTES:

* The Red Sox saw a seven-game winning streak at Fenway -- their longest of the season -- snapped.

* Boston has homered in 13 consecutive games.

* The Red Sox bullpen has posted a 1.17 ERA since July 6.

* Mookie Betts became the first Red Sox hitter to hit 20 homers in a season before he turns 24 since Nomar Garciaparra.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 30 straight games.

* The eight strikeouts posted by Eduardo Rodriguez were a season high and one shy of his career high.

* The loss was only the 15th this season in games in which the Red Sox score first.

* Rodriguez has not allowed an opposing baserunner to steal a base since July 5, 2015.

STARS:

1) Kyle Gibson

Don't let the 5.12 ERA he had coming in fool you. Gibson worked out a little jam in the first, then completely shut the Red Sox down the rest of the way, allowing just one hit and one walk after the first.

2) Brian Dozier

Dozier homered in the second to tie the game, singled in the fourth, walked in the sixth and singled again in the eighth -- reaching base in all four plate appearances.

3) Miguel Sano

Sano invited trouble when he dropped a routine pop-up to allow the Red Sox to put the potential tying run on base in the eighth. But he had three base hits on the night, including a run-scoring double that put the Twins ahead to stay in the sixth.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam