Sox can’t hit on a solution
Grade-A chances go by the board
OAKLAND, Calif. — As Bill Hall crossed first base in the sixth inning, the ball having arrived just before he did, the Red Sox second baseman removed his helmet and slammed it to the ground. The helmet came to rest harmlessly in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, a place that housed the Sox’ frustrations over the last two games.
He wasn’t the only one to act out. Just before Hall grounded into the double play that ended the sixth, an inning that had started with three straight hits and as much momentum as the Sox had seen of late, Mike Cameron threw his hands in the air in disbelief as Rajai Davis made a nice catch on a potential extra-base hit to right field that could have scored a run.
Cameron couldn’t get it done. Hall couldn’t get it done. Not that they’re alone. Clutch hitting, especially with two outs, has deserted the Sox of late, as they dropped the rubber game to the A’s, 6-4, in front of 30,456 yesterday afternoon.
“It’s pretty frustrating,’’ Hall said. “It’s frustrating for the team. It’s frustrating for me. We all know we can play better than this. We’re just not catching a lot of breaks right now. It’s just another point in the season where things aren’t going well for us. Hopefully it turns around soon. We don’t want to start pressing like we did earlier in the season. We’re still playing pretty good baseball, we’re just not catching a lot of breaks. Hopefully it turns around. Hopefully we can make it turn around pretty fast.’’
The Sox have dropped 10 of their last 14, and are seven games back in the American League East. Since the All-Star break, the Sox are 2-5, and have not scored more than four runs in their last eight games.
As for Cameron, he was succinct in his assessment of what the Sox need to do: “W-I-N,’’ he spelled. “At all costs, no matter how, what, when.’’
“We’re the Red Sox,’’ Clay Buchholz said. “We’re good. We’re going to fight adversity that we have to go through to get to the point where you want to be at.’’
Though Buchholz was only able to go four-plus innings, allowing five runs on six hits, including two home runs, and three walks, that in part was due to rustiness upon his return from an injured left hamstring. Buchholz hadn’t pitched in the majors since June 26, when he pulled up running the bases against the Giants.
As for the offense, there are more questions. With players starting to return — as Jed Lowrie rejoined the lineup yesterday and Jeremy Hermida is set to be activated today — the Sox need to be able to supply enough runs before Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez also return. That hasn’t happened of late, as the Sox have loaded the bases three times in the last two games and come away with nothing.
“Something at all would be good. Just a few here or there,’’ said Cameron. “We haven’t really scored too many two-out runs lately. That’s probably the tale of the game, because they did it a couple of times over there. A couple balls fell in for them.
“Just coming up short. These last few days, kind of rough. But you just keep fighting, see what happens. You’ve got to keep pushing. As bad as it’s been, it’s not that bad.’’
One of the few Sox to produce of late has been Adrian Beltre, who had three hits yesterday and eight in the three-game series. After the Sox had scored one run in the first, with Lowrie walking and coming home on a Beltre single, and one in the fifth, with Lowrie singling home Hall, they trailed, 6-2, after five. Beltre then stepped to the plate with Kevin Youkilis on first base in the sixth, and blasted his 16th homer of the season. J.D. Drew followed with a single, and it seemed the Sox had a big inning brewing. But they weren’t able to get closer, as Cameron flied to right and Hall hit into a double play.
The Sox did produce a couple of stellar defensive plays to keep the game within two runs. Eric Patterson made a diving catch in left to end the seventh after Oakland loaded the bases. That was followed by another outstanding play in the eighth by Cameron and catcher Dusty Brown. After Coco Crisp tripled, Cameron caught a Cliff Pennington fly to center that looked like it would score the speedy Crisp. But Cameron’s throw to Brown was perfection — “unbelievable,’’ as Brown put it — the one-hopper arriving in a good spot for Brown, who was blocking the plate. Crisp was out.
“He’s always been sturdy,’’ manager Terry Francona said of Brown. “He’s not afraid to stand in there. Cam’s throw was outstanding. I didn’t think we had much of a chance. Great play all the way around.’’
But in the end, it wasn’t enough.
“We’ve been down that road, early in the season,’’ Hall said of the team starting to put pressure on itself. “First started out, we weren’t playing really good baseball, but a lot of things were going wrong then. Now we’re still playing pretty good baseball. Hopefully we know as a team that pressing is not going to be the answer to our problems. Just got to get the job done more on a daily basis.’’
As for Buchholz, he struggled through each of his four-plus innings. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, but gave up the first home run of Matt Watson’s career in the second. The A’s added two more runs in the third on a Jack Cust homer, then put the first two men on against Buchholz in the fifth. That brought on Scott Atchison, who allowed both runners to score.
And the Sox left here after a disappointing series on a crucial West Coast trip as the trading deadline nears. And while it’s clear there’s frustration, there’s also hope.
“I guess they say it will pass, the storm will pass,’’ Hall said. “Hopefully sunny days are coming soon.’’