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A'S 15, RED SOX 3

All A's

Sox fall to pieces as free-swinging Oakland piles it on

The vacuum cleaner, on a little earlier than usual, was the only noise breaking the silence of an empty clubhouse, its inhabitants having evacuated not 45 minutes after the final out was recorded. The Red Sox, losers of their last three, two in extra innings plus last night's 15-3 debacle, had reason to escape. Ballpark experiences have not been pleasant for these Red Sox lately.

Combined with a 19-inning loss to the White Sox Sunday and an 11-inning loss to the A's Thursday, last night's drubbing left the Red Sox losers of six of their last nine games. And, with the Yankees beating Jose Contreras and the White Sox, Boston has just a 1 1/2-game lead on New York in the American League East.

``Today's already over," Coco Crisp said, after Barry Zito controlled the Red Sox' bats enough to get the win, pushing Boston's record against lefthanded starters to 13-15. ``We've got good ballplayers -- some of them are great. That alone allows us to have that confidence to come out here the next day and the next day and the next day after that and always know we have a chance to win a ballgame.

``You never want to lose. We put together a nice run of wins, and it can do the exact opposite [with losses]. Hopefully we can cut it shorter than our longest winning streak. Come out [today] and just play hard and hopefully the balls go in the glove like they have been and the balls drop in when we're at the plate."

The Red Sox have a good matchup tonight in Curt Schilling against Dan Haren , but there are two other areas of concern. One, Josh Beckett, who had his second straight subpar start. Two, a bullpen with two pitchers -- Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez -- who seem to have trouble getting anyone out.

Beckett first.

It wasn't the home runs this time -- though he did allow a two-run shot to Mark Ellis in the fourth inning that hit off the back of the second row of Monster Seats -- it was the singles and doubles and, perhaps more importantly, the walks. Beckett (11-5) had his ERA upped to 5.12 after 4 1/3 innings of seven-run, eight-hit, four-walk pitching, throwing 94 pitches in the process.

``When you feel that good physically . . . that's what really gets under your skin," Beckett said. ``When you feel good, it is supposed to be an easy day.

``Today it was just one of those most confusing days because I did feel good right out of the shoot. That Jason Kendall at-bat [strikeout swinging on a 97-mile-per-hour fastball] was really how I felt all day. After that it was a struggle for me to slow the game down. Sometimes when you feel that good . . . no excuses. It was brutal."

For a while it appeared Beckett would stay in control, with one run coming across in the first, one more in the third, and two in the fourth on the Ellis home run. But in the fifth, he allowed a single to Jay Payton, walked Bobby Crosby, and Milton Bradley belted a two-run double to left to make it 6-0.

Though Beckett recovered from two early-season skids -- 18 runs allowed over three starts and 16 innings from April 21 to May 3, and 15 runs (14 earned) allowed over two starts and six innings from May 30 to June 5 -- the past two games have not lived up to the standard he had set as the key piece in the Red Sox-Marlins offseason trade. After getting the win over the White Sox last Saturday in a six-inning, 10-hit, five-run effort, Beckett appears to be struggling again. These are not just hits getting through. They are wallops.

``When you throw that many pitches -- and I say it a lot because I believe it's true -- against major league hitters, fall behind or get deep in counts, not only are you giving up base runners but you are giving hitters four, five, six pitches," manager Terry Francona said. ``If you see four, five, six pitches, that seventh pitch better be pretty good. Because they've seen everything you have. And if you catch too much of the plate, they can do some damage."

With the game already out of hand, the back of the bullpen came out to mop up. But, after Craig Breslow got through 1 2/3 innings with only an inherited runner scoring, the trio that followed wasn't as effective. Rudy Seanez, though he did not allow a run, walked his first two batters.

Then came the eighth inning.

Nothing was working. Not for Javier Lopez (five runs, none earned). Not for Julian Tavarez (three runs, two inherited runners scored, one error), who took the loss Thursday. Eight runs on six hits and two errors -- one on a quadruple pump by Alex Gonzalez, one on a toss from Kevin Youkilis that hit Tavarez in the head as he was attempting to cover first base -- turned the game into a 15-3 blowout.

``Julian kind of sucked it up for us tonight when he was out there and that wasn't a lot of fun to watch or for him to be out there," Francona said. ``But we have a bullpen [Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Timlin, Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen were spared last night] and we have Schill, who has the ability to come out and play a clean game.

``We will be fine. I mean, [Schilling] doesn't have to go nine or do anything like that. He just needs to go out and do his job. And he is very good at it."

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