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)

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

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Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels:

QUOTES

* “He just had very good command the entire night. Stayed ahead in the count [and] pitched to all quadrants of the strike zone. He used his four-seamer in on some powerful right-handed hitters in their lineup.” John Farrell on Rick Porcello’s performance.

* “We needed a win bad and swung the bats well and played good defense. That’s a big win for us.” Rick Porcello said after his win in an interview with NESN.

* “24 hours ago we were probably in a much different place mentally after a ball game like tonight.” Farrell on the win.

“That was probably the first time I sat on off-speed pitches this whole year. I took a chance, took a gamble.” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on his home run.

NOTES

* Rick Porcello completed his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the 6-2 win. The CG was the fifth of his career and his first since he threw three in 2014. The righty has 14 wins, one win shy of tying his career high.

* Xander Bogaerts had his first multi extra-base hit performance of the season since June 11. He’s only done that twice this season. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

* David Ortiz logged his 85th RBI of the season in the win and Mookie Betts his 67th. Heading into Friday night’s game, the two were one of five pairs of teammates ranking in the top 20 in RBI. The list includes Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

* Dustin Pedroia has now reached base safely in 32 straight games.

STARS

1) Rick Porcello

Porcello had his first complete game in a Red Sox uniform, stopping Boston’s losing skid at four games.

2) Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts finished with a double and a home run -- the only Boston hitter with multiple hits. He also led the Red Sox with three RBI and scoring twice in the win.

3) Dustin Pedroia

In addition to walking in his first two at-bats, Pedroia had a base hit -- and another walk -- scoring twice on the night.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

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First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

First impressions of the Red Sox 6-2 win over Los Angeles:

Rick Porcello is not fazed by his fellow staff members’ struggles.

Although his teammates continue to deal with frustrations on almost a nightly basis, Porcello got the job done and put Boston in a position to win once again.

The second-inning double by Daniel Nava should have been a single, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not misplayed a funny hop. If that hit is a single, the next ground ball is a double -- and the following grounder ends the inning.

One of the most impressive components of his outing was dealing with Cole Kalhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to finish his outing after already facing them three times on the night.

Xander Bogaerts had his first multi-hit game in a week.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a long time -- but that can feel like a long time given the shortstop’s output this year.

It was also his first multi extra-base hit performance since June 11.

Oddly enough, those are his only two games of that kind this season.

In addition to the win, Porcello did the bullpen a favor.

Not necessarily because the relievers needed rest, but with Ziegler’s last two rough nights, they could use a break.

Although Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz got warm late, it was more so to keep them fresh for the coming games since they haven’t thrown much.

Additionally, he gave an example for the Red Sox starting rotation that they are in fact capable of going the distance.

Tim Lincecum is barely a shell of what he used to be.

That first inning was hard to watch. The former Cy Young Award-winner threw eight straight balls, and somehow managed to work past. Even his final throw to first base in he opening frame looked like it was going off the mark.

Just hard to watch in general, which made it all the more shocking that the Red Sox couldn’t score against him.

Good for them that he never adjusted, and they took advantage of it in the ensuing innings.

Merloni: ‘Missed opportunities left and right’ for Red Sox

Merloni: ‘Missed opportunities left and right’ for Red Sox

Lou Merloni talks about the Red Sox losing 6 out of the last 7 games and if David Price should have stayed in the game for the 9th inning.