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The Red Sox reject observations that they lack an inner fire.

“Completely asinine,” closer Jonathan Papelbon said.

But they went meekly in Wednesday night’s loss. In fact, they failed to get a runner _ grounding out harmlessly on their last five at bats _ in the last two innings after falling behind 6-4.

They say they’re not pressing.

“I don’t see it,” Ortiz said.

It’s indisputable, though, that the Red Sox are playing bad baseball.

“You have a day off to regroup,” manager Terry Francona said. “We certainly haven’t made it very easy for ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t get where we want to go.

“But, we have our work cut out for us.”

During the current 4-14 slide, they’ve scored just 54 runs in the losses, the same number they’ve put up in the wins. The pitchers have an ERA of 5.81, starters have gone more than five innings in only six of the 18 games, and fielders have made 22 errors to just 10 for their opponents.

One of the costliest flubs came in Tuesday night’s 7-5 loss to the Orioles, a game the Red Sox led 5-4 before Papelbon, who entered with 22 straight scoreless innings, gave up a three-run double to Robert Andino in the eighth.

The error came in the third when right fielder Josh Reddick took a step in on Vladimir Guerrero’s liner then couldn’t get back in time to make the catch, which would have ended the inning with just one run. The ball ticked off Reddick’s glove and the Orioles scored four.

“Fundamentally,” Francona said, “he just didn’t do the right thing.”

He’s certainly not alone.

Four of Boston’s five best pitchers _ Josh Beckett, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves and Papelbon _ couldn’t protect leads in the past two games. The other member of that group, Jon Lester, hopes to reverse a two-game slide on Friday night. In those starts, he allowed eight runs on 13 hits in 11 innings.

Right-hander Clay Buchholz was having an outstanding year but has been out since June 17 with a stress fracture in his lower back. He may be able to pitch in relief before the season ends.

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