Pitching fails Red Sox on recent road trip

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Pitching fails Red Sox on recent road trip

OAKLAND -- The Red Sox run of futility isn't very hard to explain.

In losing six straight on this road trip with three games to play, the Red Sox have been outscored 33-5. In nearly every game, the starting pitching has been the culprit.

Such was the case Sunday as the Sox established their longest losing streak of the season with a lifeless 6-2 loss to the Oakland A's.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had attacked the strike zone with an aggressiveness he's seldom shown in his last outing, was back to his old tricks Sunday, picking at the corners of the strike zone.

He missed the strike zone too often, but sadly for the Red Sox, the same can't be said for the Oakland bats.

Two batters in, Seth Smith's home run to right with Coco Crisp aboard gave the A's a quick 2--0 lead. A solo homer by Stephen Drew in the second pushed the lead to 3-0 and two walks helped contribute to another two runs in the third.

It was 5-0 before you knew it.

This caused two problems. It once again put the onus on the offense to dig out from an early hole. In five of the six games on the road trip, the opponents have scored in the first inning. And in four of those five -- including Sunday -- they've scored multiple runs.

"We just don't have the firepower to come back," lamented Bobby Valentine.

Indeed, they don't. With two run-producing bats -- righthanded Will Middlebrooks and lefthanded David Ortiz -- likely gone for the rest of the season and Adrian Gonzalez, who led the team in RBI now in a Dodger uniform, the Sox lack muscle in the middle to make up any deficits.

The lineup Sunday featured just three players the Sox identified as regulars at the start of the season: second baseman Dustin Pedroia; outfielder Cody Ross; and Mike Aviles, who began the year as the starting shortstop but Sunday, served as the DH du jour in Ortiz's absence.

The rest are a collection of minor league journeyman -- Pedro Ciriaco, Mauro Gomez -- and young players who've yet to become established in the big leagues such as Ryan Lavarnway and Jose Iglesias.

Is it any wonder that the Sox have averaged just over two runs per contest in the six games to date?

"Obviously it's not easy," said Ross. "But we're professionals. We have to come back from being down. That's the name of the game. At the end of the day, we've got to score more than they do. We just have to keep fighting. It's unacceptable."

Beyond the stress being placed on the lineup, there's a negative impact on the bullpen, too, which, even with expanded rosters, is being asked to shoulder too much of the innings load day after day.

In the Oakland series alone, Red Sox relievers had to eat up 14 23 innings. The fact that four Red Sox pitchers from the bullpen combined for 4 13 shutout innings in relief of Matsuzaka is almost irrelevalant: there's a toll that shows up the following day when the bullpen is overworked.

"I'm really disappointed as a starter than I wasn't able to my job today," said Matsuzaka, who dropped to 1-4 with the defeat, "especially since I knew that I needed to pitch deeper into the games, knowing how much the bullpen has been used in recent games. I knew they needed a break and all I wanted to do today was pitch as long as I could."

That plan resulted in failure -- just like almost everything associated with the Red Sox these days.

McAdam: Price not exactly hitting stride with postseason on horizon

McAdam: Price not exactly hitting stride with postseason on horizon

NEW YORK -- The division title was there for the taking Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. When you've won 11 straight and steamrolled every other team in the division, what's one more?

One too many, apparently.

The Red Sox' 6-4 defeat to the New York Yankees postponed the Champagne party for at least one night. In and of itself, that's not a huge concern. The Sox' magic number remains one with five games to play and the club's epic hot streak had to come to an end eventually.

A better night by either David -- Ortiz or Price -- might have resulted in corks popping and on-field celebrations.

Ortiz was 0-for-5 and stranded a total of seven baserunners. When he came to the plate in the top of the ninth against Tyler Clippard with two outs and two on, it almost seemed scripted.

Here was Ortiz in his final Yankee Stadium series, about to inflict one final bit of misery on the rival Yankees with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth.

Talk about drama. Talk about one more famous, final scene.

Alas, Ortiz took some feeble swings and swung through strike three for the final out. Not even Ortiz, for all his clutch performances, can conjure a game-winner on-demand every time.

A far bigger concern was the work of Price. Perhaps the best thing than can be said of him for now is that he almost certainly will not have to face the Yankees again this season, against whom he's compiled a gaudy 7.89 ERA this season.

More troubling, though, is that Price is not exactly hitting his stride as the postseason appears on the near horizon. In his last three starts combined, Price has pitched 19 1/3 innings and allowed 27 hits and 14 runs.

That isn't the line of someone at peak form at the right time. To the contrary, after a run of outings in which it again appeared Price had figured everything out, he's regressed in his last three.

Most troubling Tuesday was a repeated inability to turn back the Yankees after his team had pulled close on the scoreboard.

Price spotted the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and the Sox finally scored twice in the top of the 6th to close within one at 3-2. But Price quickly gave anther run back in the bottom of the inning.

Then the Sox scored two more times in the seventh to tie things at 4-4. . . but Price gave the two runs right back in the bottom of the inning.

"Very frustrating,'' sighed Price. "It's something I talk about all the time. It's a very big deal. And it's something I feel like I've struggled with this entire year. Whenever you're going good, it's something you're doing very well. And whenever you're going bad...you get a lead, give it right back. . . that's tough.''

It also doesn't portend well for the postseason, where Price, as you may have heard, has a spotty track record.

With some strong starts in the final few weeks, he could have reached the playoffs with both momentum and confidence.

Instead, he's got one more start -- Sunday -- to straighten things out.

Ortiz? His postseason bona fides are set.

Price, meanwhile, has no such reservoir of success upon which to draw. And starts like Tuesday's only reinforce the doubts.

 

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz goes 0-for-5 in loss to Yankees

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz goes 0-for-5 in loss to Yankees

NEW YORK -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees:

 

QUOTES:

"I went 0-for-5 today, so I ain't got (anything) to talk about.'' - David Ortiz after turning around and seeing a small army of reporters waiting for him in front of his locker.

"To have a chance to clinch the division for us here (and come up sort), it's not acceptable. If my offense scores me four runs, I feel like I should be able to go out there and win.'' - David Price.

"The bottom line story to this one was (Price) mislocating within the strike zone.'' - John Farrell.

 

NOTES:

* Boston's season-best 11-game win streak was snapped with the loss.

* David Price took his first loss since Aug. 7.

* Price is 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA against the Yankees this season.

* Aaron Hill contributed his first pinch-hit homer in his career.

* Mookie Betts saw his streak of reaching base in 38 straight road games stopped.

* Dustin Pedroia posted his third straight multi-hit game.

* For the 20th time this season, Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a three-hit game.

* In his last 12 games, Andrew Benintendi has eight extra-base hits.

* Hill's pinch-hit homer was the third by the Red Sox this month.

 

STARS:

1) Tyler Austin

The rookie first baseman snapped a 4-4 tie in the seventh with a two-run homer and also added two more hits in three at-bats.

2) Gary Sanchez

The first-year catcher continues to amaze, hitting his 20th homer in only his 51st game, sending the Yanks out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning.

3) Luis Cessa

Cessa took a big step forward from his last start against the Red Sox by keeping them scoreless through the first five innings before allowing two runs in the sixth.