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Collapse is nearly complete for Red Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 27, 2011 12:25 AM

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BALTIMORE The numbers come at you like an avalanche.

The Red Sox are 6-19 this month. ... They have lost 17 of 22. ... They haven't won consecutive games since a doubleheader sweep on Aug. 27. ... The starters have an earned run average of 7.91 in the last 19 games. ... Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are 1-5, 8.18 in their last six starts. ... The Sox are 23-31 since Aug. 1.

But only one number matters now:

Two.

That's how many games the Red Sox have left. Win them both and at worst, they have a one-game playoff with the Rays on Thursday. Otherwise, they go down in history as the biggest regular-season chokers in baseball history.

Theres not much to say. We need to come out and win tomorrow. Weve backed ourselves about as far as we can go, said manager Terry Francona, whose job security is tenuous at best at this point.

No team has ever lost a nine-game hold on a wild-card spot in September. Not the 2007 Mets. Not the 1964 Phillies. Nobody. But the Sox have given away their lead and are now tied with the Rays.

The Red Sox were 82-51 on Aug. 27. They were three games behind the Phillies for the best record in baseball. One month later, they're a pack of zombies.

Now two games can change that. Or just make it worse.

Were all going to play as hard as we can. Im going to leave everything on the field, said Dustin Pedroia, one of the few players to speak at length after the game. Im not going to have any regrets about this season, thats for damn sure.

It could get ugly. Erik Bedard starts on Tuesday and nobody knows what to expect. The catcher could be Ryan Lavarnway, who has all of nine innings of big league experience behind the plate. Jason Varitek (right knee) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (right shoulder) are doubtful for tomorrow.

If the Sox win that game, Jon Lester goes on three days' rest on Wednesday. He has never done that before.

Adrian Gonzalez spoke confidently about the idea of the Sox winning three in a row, saying they still control their fate.

But this team has not won games on consecutive days since Aug. 23-25 in Texas. There is no evidence of a turnaround. Whatever momentum picked up with that 14-inning victory in New York on Sunday night was not on display at Camden Yards.

Not even team MVP Jacoby Ellsbury was immune. After hitting what seemed like a season-saving home run on Sunday, he appeared to make a season-saving catch in the sixth inning. But Ellsbry caught Robert Andino's blast just as he hit the wall in center and the ball was jarred loose.

Adino had an inside-the-park three-run homer. That's how it has been going for the Red Sox.

A fan ran on the field at one point in the game and made an obscene gesture to the Red Sox dugout before sprinting out to the outfield. The man ran around for several minutes, at one point climbing into the stands and then going back on the field.

The inattentive (or perhaps uncaring) Orioles security didn't even chase him.

It didn't even seem unusual. Not this month.

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