BOSTON -- There was a popular television commercial in the 1980s for a fast-food restaurant that featured an old lady asking, "Where's the beef?"
In the baseball world, "beef" can equate to pitching, and right now the Boston Red Sox are asking the same question as that little old lady.
It's been a terrible month for the Red Sox, who fell to 5-16 in September after dropping Wednesday's game to the lowly Baltimore Orioles, 6-4 at Fenway Park. Boston's lead in the American League wild-card race stands at 2½ games over the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels with seven games remaining in the regular season.
The Red Sox have received only three quality starts this month, and they needed Josh Beckett to stop the bleeding. The right-hander worked 7⅓ innings but allowed six runs on seven hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. He surrendered a pair of home runs, both to Mark Reynolds.
Beckett was solid in the first five innings, when the only run he allowed was Reynolds' solo shot in the second.
"The results were good, but I got away with some mistakes," Beckett said.
The Sox held a 4-1 lead before the Orioles pushed a run across in the top of the sixth. Reynolds then added his two-run homer in the seventh to tie the game at 4.
Beckett came back out for the eighth and recorded a quick out but allowed back-to-back hits to put runners on second and third before being removed after 109 pitches. Reliever Alfredo Aceves entered and quickly allowed a two-run single to Vladimir Guerrero as Baltimore grabbed a 6-4 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Losing three of four to the last-place Orioles with a postseason berth at stake is not easy to take.
"It's tough," Beckett said. "I wish I could have done better today. Things just didn't work out. I got away with some things early, but I didn't get away with them later on.
"You want to pitch good all season long, especially when your team needs you. You want to give them innings, and quality innings, but that was something I wasn't able to do today."
"I'm not in a very good mood right now because we lost a game," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We've lost a lot of games. We're going to have to fight for everything we get the rest of the way out and see if we can make it happen to get to where we want to go.
"We certainly haven't made it easy for ourselves. That doesn't mean we can't get to where we want to go, but we have our work cut out for us."
The Red Sox have Thursday off before heading to New York to face the Yankees in a three-game series over the weekend. Boston will start Jon Lester on Friday and Tim Wakefield on Saturday. Francona has not said who will pitch Sunday but did rule out Erik Bedard, so it could be John Lackey, maybe even Aceves.
It's also possible general manager Theo Epstein could be in the market to claim a veteran pitcher off waivers for a spot start. Pitching is crucial, and the Red Sox just aren't getting the beef.
The Red Sox finished their last homestand of the season with a 3-7 record. Boston's fight for a postseason berth trudges on, and it will depend on the club's ability to pitch.
"Right now it's status quo," Beckett said. "Would we like it to be different? Yeah."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.