Coming off a three-game winning streak to end a long homestand, the Sox lost the opener of a two-game series at the Oakland Coliseum on Tuesday night. The 5-0 setback dropped Boston to 10-20 on the Athletics' home turf over a seven-year span, and offered up the latest in a long line of road failures this season.
Seven games away from Fenway Park. Seven losses. Twenty straight innings without a run.
And this one offered up frustration in just about every form.
There was biting breaking ball after biting breaking ball from A's lefty Brett Anderson, who flummoxed the Sox' bats all evening. There was manager Terry Francona getting ejected after a non-balk call took away a rare base runner in the fourth. There was John Lackey having his only quality start of the season go to waste. There was a batter's interference call on Mike Cameron in the top of the eighth that led to a double play and took away the potential tying run at second base. Finally, there were three Red Sox relievers throwing a total of 51 pitches in the bottom of the eighth when a tight ballgame turned into a runaway for the hosts.
The timing of this trip was not great. The Red Sox had finally put behind them the memories of that 2-10 start. There was a sense in the clubhouse after Monday's rout of Toronto that the ship had been righted. Players were beginning to relax.
However, trips to the Coliseum always come with a bit of trepidation. It was 2004 when Boston last won a season series in Oakland, and several of the losses along the way have had a theme of frustration, very much like that of Tuesday night.
It was last September 11 when the Red Sox, clinging to playoff hopes, had Lackey take a 2-0 lead against Anderson into the seventh, only to watch Oakland take the lead and then close the game out on a strikeout of David Ortiz with the tying run on second. Boston's first loss in the Coliseum last season saw them blow an early four-run lead and eventually fall 5-4 in extra innings, but not before pitching coach John Farrell was ejected, just as Francona was in the first loss in Oakland in 2011.
Coincidentally, that setback preceded another the following day in which Clay Buchholz, the starter Wednesday afternoon, was knocked around. Buchholz, keeping with the team-wide theme, has given up an eye-popping 10 runs on 11 hits and seven walks in just five innings at the Coliseum.
While the A's have had no problem getting enough runs in their encounters with Boston, the Sox are having all sorts of issues scoring outside the cozy confines of Fenway Park. They are now averaging just 2.3 runs on the road, and have only six total runs in their last five games away from home.
In those 20 straight scoreless innings on the road, the vaunted lineup has produced a grand total of nine hits. All of them are singles. Just two runners have reached third base.
It's not often that a team finishes a homestand on the East Coast and has to play the very next day on the West Coast. That's the scheduling quirk that the Red Sox faced, however, and it likely did not sit well with everyone involved.
Fortunately, for Boston, it's only a two-game set in Oakland and the club can move on to the next series knowing it won't have to see the Coliseum until next season. Unfortunately, that next series is also on the road, and that simply doesn't jive with the Red Sox right now.