The Red Sox arrived in Baltimore early Monday morning with a one-game lead in the American League wild-card race. They went to bed Monday night in a tie with Tampa Bay.

It has been an ugly September, one of the ugliest ever after Boston’s 6-3 loss in Baltimore on Monday night.

Earlier in the day the Sox were still clinging to that one-game lead thanks to the kind of grind-it-out marathon win that still makes baseball a sport unlike any other.

We are often reminded that there is no clock in baseball, and that was evident as the Sox and Yankees approached midnight on Sunday.

With the season hanging in the balance, five Sox relievers combined to shut out New York for the final eight innings.

It was a reminder that maybe, just maybe, this pitching staff could be good enough to hang around for a while come October.

Jacoby Ellsbury got Monday’s headlines with his 14th-inning home run that sent the Sox off to the Inner Harbor with smiles on their faces. It was his third homer of the doubleheader, more ammunition for those who think he’s the AL MVP.

But the real stars of this game were the members of Boston’s beleaguered bullpen. After six serviceable innings from John Lackey, the relievers took over.

For most of this month, the Red Sox bullpen has been grossly overworked. Over the course of the season, Sox relievers have thrown over 100 innings more than their Rays counterparts. Lackey’s six innings of work Sunday night was the seventh time in September that a starter went that long. No bullpen in the majors is built to succeed when that door starts opening in the fifth inning. That’s when the soft underbelly of the group gets exposed.

Sunday night shaped up to be another night like that when the Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Felix Doubront was warming up in the second inning when New York had two more runners on base.

Doubront got in the game, but not for another four hours. He picked up his first save of the season with a one-two-three 14th inning. That came after Franklin Morales’ career-high 44 pitches, and a 2 1/3-inning performance from Jonathan Papelbon, his longest appearance in two years.

“If you don’t like that, you don’t have blood running through your veins,” Papelbon told reporters after the game.

And so the Sox entered the final series of the season with their hearts still beating. There are still plenty of concerns about a starting rotation that can go deep into games, and about what the top of this rotation will be able to do against playoff-caliber teams.

Josh Beckett made his final start of the regular season Monday night at Camden Yards, going six innings. We can assure you he’ll be facing a much tougher lineup if the Sox make it to the playoffs.

So will Jon Lester, who has not fared well against quality opponents this month. He’s faced the Rays twice and the Yankees once and is 0-3 with an ERA of 10.54. Not exactly confidence-building numbers from the man everyone wanted to start Game 1.

October expectations for this club have been severely dampened by horrible play this month. But the playoffs can be a fresh start for a team.

Short first-round series often come down to the success or failure of a bullpen. Sunday night was a reminder that, when set up correctly, the Sox have enough arms to get through even the longest battles.

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.