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Hard to locate cause of problems

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Doug Mirabelli sat back in his chair, taking a break from gathering his gear, and thought for a good 10 seconds about what, if anything, Kyle Snyder is doing wrong.

He came up with . . . nothing.

``They got some hits today that we'd like to take our chances on," Mirabelli said. ``If you're going to hit the ball through the infield on the ground, then that's what we want our pitchers to do. We've got great infielders. But Kyle has to believe the one pitch, the one mistake, was to Frank Thomas in the fourth."

Though Snyder disputed that, saying he threw more than one mistake pitch in yesterday's six innings in a 5-1 loss to the A's at McAfee Coliseum, there still wasn't a lot either catcher -- Mirabelli or Jason Varitek -- could say to explain why Snyder's results (2-2, 7.15 ERA ) haven't matched his stuff.

And it's not just against Thomas.

``I just didn't execute my pitches," Snyder said. ``My location suffered a little bit the second time through the order . . . [Thomas is] a phenomenal hitter, a future Hall of Famer. You make mistakes to him, you expect [to pay]."

Thomas, who hit two home runs, in the fourth and fifth innings, made the biggest dents in Snyder's ERA, sending a solo shot to center in the fourth and a three-run blast to left on a pitch on the ``inner third to the corner -- but that was a particular pitch that he was sitting on that he could handle under the circumstances," Snyder said. ``That's why he is the way he is."

Of the 10 hits allowed by Snyder, he gave up six ground-ball singles. But until the fourth inning, Snyder didn't struggle at all, and neither did his counterpart, Dan Haren. It was in the fourth that Snyder threw ``a 2-0 fastball, fastball count, outer half, about belt high," as he described it, to Thomas. That home run was followed by singles by Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, and Bobby Crosby, as the A's went up, 2-0.

After Jason Kendall began the fifth inning with a single to left and stole second , Milton Bradley walked, and Thomas homered to give Oakland a 5-0 lead.

There is, clearly, potential with Snyder. And pitches. Four of them, to be exact, cited by Mirabelli and Varitek as one of the best things Snyder brings to the mound. He's got choices. They've got choices.

``It's just getting through starts, getting through different sequences, both sides of the plate," said Varitek, who has caught Snyder in his other three starts with the Sox. ``I just liked his stuff, liked his demeanor on the mound. I think he's got a lot of pitches you can go to. That's good. It presents options for you."

And options are great, if the pitch selected is thrown to the correct spot.

``He gives us a lot of options behind the plate on what pitches to throw," Mirabelli echoed. ``He's got four pitches [fastball, curveball, changeup, slider] that I think he feels very comfortable with. He throws a lot of strikes, and that gives us something to work with."

So, he's got options. Now he just needs to convert those natural gifts, stymied for years by arm troubles, into results to justify the Kansas City castoff's spot as Boston's No. 5 starter.

Snyder got a start in Seattle last Friday -- allowing two unearned runs in five innings in a win over the Mariners -- but couldn't keep his momentum in the finale of the road trip.

Or at least he couldn't get all those options past Frank Thomas.

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