05/24/08 2:08 AM ET
Sox's road woes return as seven-game winning streak ends
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
And just like that, the Sox saw the momentum of a seven-game winning streak -- all of which was achieved at Fenway -- stymied in an 8-3 loss to the Athletics on Friday night.
On a night Tim Wakefield's knuckleball didn't do enough dancing, the Boston bats were fairly well silenced by Rich Harden.
While the Red Sox own a dominant 21-5 record at home, they fell to 10-15 on the road. In fact, Boston has lost six of its last seven away contests.
"We don't think about it," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "I know playing at home, there's definitely an advantage to us. Other teams come in, we've got a great crowd. A lot of things seem to go our way at home, but I don't know. We have nine more games on this road trip. We're trying to have a good road trip and go back home with a winning record. We'll be all right."
Wakefield (3-3, 5.19 ERA) was hit for eight hits and eight runs over five-plus innings. The Red Sox were down, 7-0, by the time they came to the plate in the fourth.
"I think my mechanics are a little off right now," said Wakefield. "It was a grind after the first inning knowing I'm down 3-0 and trying to stay in the game as long as possible and trying to get as many outs as I can. I wasn't as consistent as I'd like to be. If I can take anything positive out of it, it's that I got to the sixth inning, pitched out of a jam there in the fifth. Ultimately the first and third innings killed me. It is what it is. I don't like it. I'll try to figure it out."
Harden, meanwhile, mowed through the Sox, allowing four hits and two runs while striking out eight over six innings.
"He's got as good a stuff as anyone in the league," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He gets in some fastball counts and he doesn't give you a fastball. We've seen him too much. We don't need to face him every other game."
Due to injury, Harden has made just five starts this season. Three have been against the Red Sox.
"I hope he's not going to come back and pitch Sunday," quipped Francona.
The A's didn't waste any time jumping on Wakefield. Bobby Crosby got things started in the first with a double to left. Jack Cust followed with an RBI single up the middle. Up stepped Frank Thomas, who clubbed a two-run homer to left to make it 3-0.
It was the seventh career homer for Thomas against Wakefield.
"I actually felt good in the bullpen and the first inning -- one pitch to Thomas. You know the history there," said Wakefield.
Thomas thought Wakefield might have been affected by the elements.
"I've had a lot of strikeouts against him, too," Thomas said. "Tonight just wasn't his night because of the weather. When you get him in the cold air, you catch the movement and are able to hit off him easier."
While Harden was untouched over the first three innings, Oakland again hammered away against Wakefield in the third. Cust drew a one-out walk and Thomas followed with a single to left. Ryan Sweeney ripped an RBI single to right. The big blow of the inning came from Mark Ellis, who unloaded for a three-run homer that gave the A's a 7-0 cushion.
"The one I didn't expect was Ellis," said Wakefield. "I threw a good pitch to Ellis and he hits a three-run homer. That kind of puts us in a hole."
Ellis was just happy to connect off a pitch that can be mystifying to say the least.
"With him, it's always hit and miss," Ellis said. "It's never easy, that's for sure, and I actually thought he had a really good knuckleball tonight. It might not look like it because of the home runs, but he really did have a good one tonight."
Pedroia ended Harden's perfect game loudly with one out in the top of the fourth, smashing a solo homer to left. The Red Sox got another one back in the fifth, thanks to an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury that scored J.D. Drew. However, Boston was still in a sizable 7-2 hole.
"It was tough to get our offense going," said Pedroia. "I thought Rich Harden did a great job. He has some of the best stuff in baseball. We were able to get some runners on but couldn't get back in the game. We had some great at-bats there in the fifth and sixth inning. We couldn't get that big hit to get us back in the game."
Perhaps frustration boiled for the Red Sox in the top of the sixth. Boston hitting coach Dave Magadan was ejected for arguing with home-plate umpire Tim Tschida. The dispute occurred when Tschida wouldn't let Drew take a moment to put some pine tar on his bat.
Major League Baseball recently told all 30 teams that umpires would be cracking down on keeping the game moving. The pine tar thing was a new one on Drew.
"Make it real short and sweet, I guess there's a new rule in baseball, you can't go back and put pine tar on your bat," said Drew. "You have to have it ready before the bat boy brings it out in case you break one, which is news to everybody in this clubhouse. Nobody has heard that rule. Evidently it was in effect tonight."
As for Boston's troubles on the road, Drew was stumped.
"It's hard to say," said Drew. "I don't think there's anything you point to that's any different. That's just how it goes sometimes."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.