31-22: Sox swept out of Oakland

Oakland came into this series struggling of late, and Boston came in on a six-game win streak. But it didn’t matter, as the A’s silenced the Boston bats and got enough offense to win all three games. The Sox are really feast or famine this year; in addition to the extreme home/road splits, they have had winning streaks of 4, 5, 6 and 7 games already. They have lost three in a row twice, and had 4 and 5 game losing streaks as well in this still young season. They have been a part of 9 series sweeps in 2008, winning 5 of them and losing 4. Let’s hope the losing doesn’t continue for long this time.

Game 1: Boston 3, Oakland 8

With a wildfire burning miles away and smoke clouding the usually sunny California sky, the Red Sox winning streak also crashed and burned, as Tim Wakefield (3-3) suffered a rough outing in Oakland. Frank Thomas continued his role as Sox killer, hitting a 2-run homer in a 3-run 1st inning, and Mark Ellis hit a 3-run shot in a 4-run 3rd to put the A’s up 7-0.

For his part, Rich Harden (3-0) went six strong innings, giving up two runs on a Dustin Pedroia home run and an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury. He fanned eight batters, though the Sox made him work; he needed 105 pitches to get that far. Joey Devine allowed one run after a throwing error by Jack Hannahan in the 7th, and Huston Street pitched a scoreless 9th for the win.

J.D. Drew was warned sternly by the umpire when he tried to go get pine tar during an at-bat in the 6th. The ump was trying to enforce a new MLB rule designed to speed up the pace of games. MLB warned teams that it would be watched this weekend, but apparently the Sox players weren’t aware of the new rule and thought it was bogus to start enforcing it to shave a minute or two off of a game.

Ellsbury was caught for the second time on the basepaths, not because he was thrown out, but when he overslid the bag and was tagged out by Ellis. I’ve seen him almost do it once or twice in recent games, but it hadn’t been a problem until last night. At the least it prevented David Ortiz from coming up with a runner on, and at worst it killed a potential 7th inning rally.

The good news? David Aardsma didn’t walk anyone in the 6th, and Mike Timlin worked two quick, scoreless innings to finish off the game. But then again, it is the A’s, not exactly a murderer’s row lineup; and they were up big anyway.

Game 2: Boston 0, Oakland 3

Good thing Josh Beckett (5-4) won that last iffy start, because he got robbed tonight. Beckett went seven strong innings and allowed just two runs on 7 scattered hits. Throwing 76 of 107 pitches for strikes, he struck out 9 A’s and basically showed ace form. But Oakland starter Justin Duchscherer (4-3) one-hit the Sox for 8 innings, so it didn’t really matter what Beckett did.

30-year old Duchscherer apparently joked around before the game about “pulling a Lester”, and he nearly did it, not giving up a baserunner until he hit Jason Varitek in the 6th, and allowing the only hit of the game to David Ortiz in the top of the 7th. Boston didn’t walk a single time, and there were only two or three well-hit balls off him, though the Sox flied out 16 times in this one. Duchscherer, a pretty good reliever the last few seasons, was converted to a starting role this season, and has been pretty darn good after overcoming some early injury concerns. Topping out in the high 80s and relying heavily on changing speeds and mixing his fastball-curve-cutter repertoire, he has compiled a 2.16 ERA in 41 2/3 innings of work.

Manny Delcarmen continues to look just mediocre, as he gave up one run on a walk sandwiched between two singles in the 8th.

Mike Sweeney‘s bat caught the back of Varitek‘s head on a swing in the 4th, but Tek seems to be okay. That could have been really bad news, had it been worse..

Manny Ramirez sat for this one, so Jacoby Ellsbury got the call in left and made another great diving play at the beginning of the game. He’s shown some very good defensive instincts this season, and with experience, could become a plus-plus defender in the line of Coco Crisp.

Game 3: Boston 3, Oakland 6

Jon Lester (3-3) didn’t pitch so hot in his first start after his no-hitter, following in the shoes of many before him. The Sox kept his pitch count down to 94 in this one, which is a good cautious move after his long outing last time out.

I like the way the Sox are using Craig Hansen, bringing him in to start innings rather than with men on base. He’s still not getting good results, however. Javier Lopez gave up a first-pitch home run to Jack Cust, which allowed one of Hansen’s runners to score.

Joe Blanton (3-6) pitched well enough for the victory, and Oakland’s bullpen shut down the Sox for the rest of the game. Keith Foulke, Joey Devine, Alan Embree and Huston Street didn’t allow much to an offense that has feasted on relief pitching all season.

David Ortiz jacked his 11th home run of the year out to right, and is looking more confident and relaxed at the dish. Manny Ramirez went 3-4 in his return, all singles to different fields. Just getting the bat on the ball is the first step; I think he’ll be fine sooner rather than later.


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