For the record, the worst ways to lose a ballgame are:

a) Letting it get away after the grind of extra innings

b) Giving up a game winning, walk-off home run

c) Giving up a game winning, walk-off grand slam

d) Forfeiting the game when your starting pitcher is bitten by Al Sharpton

With the exception of “d” — and the way this season is going, isn’t it only a matter of time until it happens — the Sox managed to cover all of the above listed methods in a heart-crushing, spirit-grinding defeat.

This is the kind of loss that empties bandwagons. The kind that gets people talking football season. The kind that can prompt even the most die-hard Sox fan to take the name of Don Orsillo in vain.

And it was a game – how many times have we said this — that they could have and should have won. So much was squandered here, namely a great effort from Arroyo, who went seven innings and struck out 12 while giving up only one run, and some late inning dramatics by Varitek, who cracked a three-run homer in the top of the eighth to give us a 4-1 lead. If you’re a team with playoff aspirations, particularly a $130 million team with a handsomely paid closer, you have to make that lead stand. You absolutely, positively have to make it stand.

But Foulke, in an horrific, Wasdin-like performance, gave up back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth. Suddenly we’re tied, setting the stage for a Bret Boone eleventh-inning grand slam. Lights out. Thanks for coming. Bring a foam hand home for your sister.

Johnny Damon called it the worst game the Sox have played all year. Who am I to disagree? And in case you needed some extra poison for the tip of that dart, we also blew yet another chance to pick up a game on the Yanks, who lost a squeaker to the Devil Rays.

Remarkably, as erratic and inconsistent as they’ve been playing — the Sox are only nine games above .500. Let’s pause a minute to let that soak in — they’re still very much in the thick of the Wild Card race. The playoffs can happen. But this was a team built to win the World Series. Raise your hand if you still think that’s gonna happen.

This afternoon, gulp, Lowe gets the ball to try to salvage the final game of the west coast swing. Then we head home for the Orioles, who own us, and… I forget… some other team coming in this weekend. Probably not a big series, though.