Red Sox drag themselves out of Oakland
September, 2, 2012
By Jeff Fletcher, Special to ESPNBoston.com
OAKLAND -- Dustin Pedroia has never been though this before. Until recently, he has never showed up to the ballpark where the primary goal was anything other than trying to get into the postseason and win the World Series.
Now Pedroia and his Boston Red Sox teammates are facing something new. When they pull on their uniforms each day, the goal is to play well because, well, that’s what they’re paid to do.
“We just have to show up to the yard and get prepared to play as hard as you can,” Pedroia said.
How’s that going so far?
Not good. Not good at all. With a 6-2 loss to the Oakland A’s on Sunday afternoon, the Red Sox have lost the first six games of their nine-game West Coast trip. And they haven’t merely lost the games. They’ve been, by Pedroia’s own admission, embarrassed.
The Red Sox were outscored 33-5 in the Oakland series, their worst beating in three consecutive games of a series since the “Boston Massacre” in September 1978, when the New York Yankees blasted the Red Sox by a 30-run margin in the first three games of that four-game set.
AP Photo/Ben MargotAs was the case all series, the Sox were in an early hole Sunday after Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up a home run to Seth Smith, the second batter he faced.
“We aren’t playing good baseball by any means,” Pedroia said. “We aren’t doing anything well.”
The Red Sox have fallen 11 games under .500 for the first time since July 1997, which was the last season Boston finished with a losing record.
Cody Ross put it succinctly: “It’s unacceptable.”
As the Red Sox quietly packed their bags to say goodbye to the Coliseum and the A’s, winners of nine in a row, there weren’t many words to describe just what has gone wrong, but there were plenty of numbers.
The Red Sox fell behind by at least five runs before scoring in all three games of the series, each time by the end of the third inning. The Red Sox trailed by at least four runs at the end of 21 of the 27 innings in Oakland.
“We don’t have the firepower to keep climbing out of big holes early,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “It’s very frustrating. You get in situations where you want to make the other pitcher throw and work the count, and you get behind. It’s a tough way to make a living.”
While it’s easy to blame the Red Sox pitchers for all that went wrong in Oakland, the hitters didn’t do much either. They had four hits in their first nine at-bats on Friday night, which they parlayed into exactly zero runs, by the way. After that, they were 15-for-85 (.176) with only two extra-base hits.
The Red Sox also drew just two walks in the series.
“They weren’t throwing balls,” Ross said. “You try to battle and work counts and these guys weren’t throwing balls. Down six, you want to work the pitcher and then you are down 0-2.”
Red Sox pitchers, by contrast, were hammered. They fell behind and were forced to leave pitches over the middle of the plate, which got pounded. Daisuke Matsuzaka walked the first batter of Sunday's game, Coco Crisp, then gave up a homer to the second, Seth Smith. In the next inning, he gave up another homer, to Stephen Drew.
“He missed with his fastball on a couple home runs, that’s for sure,” Valentine said.
They were the eighth and ninth homers the A’s hit in the series. The Red Sox hit one.
Matsuzaka got chased two outs into the fourth, having yielded six runs. He couldn’t put a single zero on the scoreboard. In the series, Red Sox starting pitchers began just 10 innings and walked off the mound with only two scoreless innings.
The quick deficits and blowout losses certainly made the Red Sox look flat, but Pedroia and Ross insisted that they haven’t raised the white flag on the season. Pedroia, in fact, had three hits, and he hustled his way into second with a double in the ninth inning of a 6-1 game on Sunday.
“Nobody is quitting,” Pedroia said. “We’re professional, we are going to play as hard as we can. We’re not in a trying league. You have to go to out and play well and perform well to win games and we haven’t done that.”
Ross, whose sixth-inning single drove in Boston’s first run of the game, agreed.
“Anytime you are struggling, and we’re not playing like we should, everyone’s pride gets a little tested, but we’re professionals,” he said. “We have to go out and keep performing, keep playing, keep grinding. We are not going to let up and let the other teams pound us. We are going to keep fighting and keep going.”