Everything seems to be going wrong for the Boston Red Sox one year after so many things went right.
Their third World Series title in 10 years is a distant memory. This season they are all but assured of finishing last in the AL East.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were the latest team to take advantage, getting a lucky break when Boston pinch-runner Jemile Weeks was hit by a batted ball in the ninth inning. That led to the Red Sox's 3-2 loss on Thursday night that helped the Pirates keep pace in the NL playoff race.
The Pirates won their fourth in a row to maintain their lead over Milwaukee for the second wild-card spot. They will host the Brewers in a three-game series beginning Friday night.
Down 3-2, the Red Sox put runners at the corners with no outs in the ninth inning against Mark Melancon. Will Middlebrooks then hit a chopper down the line, and the ball struck the back of Weeks' left leg as he made a dive back to third.
Weeks was called out, and Melancon retired the last two batters for his 30th save in 34 opportunities.
Red Sox manager John Farrell argued with the umpires about the call, which is not reviewable by video replay.
"As he's diving back, he gets hit with the ball which is runner interference and he's automatically out," Farrell said. "The question becomes whether it was fair or foul. They ruled that it was fair."
The play left Pirates manager Clint Hurdle shaking his head.
"Sometimes, you're just meant to win," he said.
Gerrit Cole (10-5) allowed two runs in seven-plus innings, striking out seven and walking none. He won his season-best third straight start.
The second-year righty improved to 7-1 in nine career September starts.
Starling Marte hit his 13th homer, connecting off Brandon Workman (1-10) in the fifth for a 3-1 lead. Workman lost his 10th straight decision.
"With the exception of the solo home run by Marte, he pitched a solid five innings for us," Farrell said.
Boston had closed to 3-2 in the eighth on Xander Bogaerts' sacrifice fly, but lost for the eighth time in 11 games, averaging just 2.7 runs a game in that span.
Red Sox: INF-OF Brock Holt, who hasn't played since Sept. 5 because of a concussion, was cleared to resume baseball activities Thursday after being examined by Pittsburgh-based head trauma specialist Micky Collins. Boston is hopeful Holt can play in a few games before the season ends on Sept. 28. If not, he will go to the Florida Instructional League camp in Fort Myers, Florida, to get some game action.
Pirates: SS Jordy Mercer was back in the lineup after missing two games because of a lower back strain and went 1 for 3 with a double.
Red Sox: RHP Allen Webster (4-3, 6.02) will start Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Baltimore, facing RHP Kevin Gausman (7-7, 3.57).
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (7-5, 3.66) will face the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo (8-10, 3.59) in the series opener.
BIG PAPI RETURNS
Boston designated hitter David Ortiz returned to the team and started at first base after missing the first two games of the series because of a family emergency. Ortiz was forced to play in the field because the DH rule isn't in effect in interleague games at NL parks. He went 0 for 4 and struck out twice.