Athletics 4, Red Sox 2

Sox stay cold at Fenway

Athletics keep Gonzalez in a rut

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 3, 2012
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The poise and discipline that mark his approach to baseball momentarily deserted Adrian Gonzalez with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning on Wednesday night when he struck out on a foul tip with the bases loaded.

Gonzalez looked back at the catcher’s mitt in disbelief and in one motion slammed the bat to the ground in anger.

The missed opportunity, one of many on the night for the Red Sox, helped lead to a 4-2 loss against the Oakland Athletics.

The Sox were hitless in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. It was that way right to the end. Dustin Pedroia had an RBI double with two outs in the ninth inning, bringing Gonzalez to the plate as the tying run. This time, he grounded to third base.

“This game is all on me. I had two great opportunities and I didn’t come through,’’ Gonzalez said.

It was the third loss in the last four games for the 11-13 Red Sox and Gonzalez is the face of their recent frustration. He is hitless in his last 17 at-bats and is down to .250 on the season.

Bobby Valentine’s theory is that Gonzalez is tired, having played all but three innings this season.

“His timing and recognition of the strike zone is just a little off,’’ Valentine said. “He’ll be fine.’’

Gonzalez shunned that excuse.

“Not at all, not at all. I feel great,’’ he said. “It’s one of those things that it’s just two at-bats, I should have come through at least one of those times and I wasn’t able to.

“I feel great physically, I feel great. I’m not tired at all. I just didn’t come through.’’

Gonzalez agreed with Valentine about his timing.

“I’m just a little late on fastballs, just a little early on off-speed pitches. It happens,’’ he said. “I’m a guy that goes off of feel and what I feel now. You can’t go back and try to regain what you had two, three, four years ago.

“I’ve gone through a lot worse things than I’m going through now. It’s just four games. At the end of the day, I’m always going to have the right approach, I’m always going to be prepared, and I’m always going to be looking for a pitch that I’m going to drive. I haven’t been able to do it these last four days, but it will change come Friday.’’

Pedroia knows how it feels to be searching fruitlessly for the perfect rhythm at the plate.

“Adrian’s kind of like me in a sense when we’re trying to find it. Once you find it, that’s when you take off,’’ he said. “With a swing like that, he’ll be fine. He’s the last guy I’m worried about. As teammates we see a perfect swing and it’s only a matter of time.’’

Brandon McCarthy (2-3) pitched into the seventh inning for the win. He is 8-0 with a 3.34 ERA in his last 13 starts against American League East teams. Once the Athletics conduct their next yard sale of talent, that statistic is sure to be remembered.

Brian Fuentes closed out the Sox for his first save, Pedroia’s double aside. The loss spoiled the debut of Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who was 2 for 3 with a double, single, and a walk filling in for the injured Kevin Youkilis.

Daniel Bard (2-3) allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings to take the loss as the Sox fell to 4-7 at Fenway Park. He allowed eight hits, walked two, and struck out one.

After striking out 19 over 18 2/3 innings in his first three starts, Bard admitted he was “bewildered’’ by his performance.

“I had a hard time putting guys away,’’ he said. “Especially early in the game, I was getting to a lot of 0-2 and 1-2 counts and would make those pitches on the edges of the zone, and for whatever reason wasn’t getting chases. They would foul them off and work it until I left something over the plate.’’

Bard sailed through the first three innings, facing only 11 hitters, and appeared headed for another strong outing.

Impressive Oakland rookie Yoenis Cespedes doubled with one out in the fourth inning and scored on a single by Seth Smith. Then Bard did not survive the sixth.

Josh Reddick singled and scored on a double by Smith. Cody Ross should have caught the ball, but overran it and the deflection off the wall rolled away from him.

“On the popup to left, that’s just something you’ve got to work with,’’ Bard said. “Any left fielder would tell you it’s a tough spot to play out there.’’

Kila Ka’aihue doubled to right field to score Smith. Bard then hit Kurt Suzuki before Brandon Inge hammered a double to left to make it 4-0.

Clayton Mortensen, called up from Triple A Pawtucket earlier in the day, struck out six in three scoreless innings but the Sox never got the hit they needed.

A smiling Gonzalez stopped by Valentine’s office on his way out of the clubhouse to say he wasn’t tired. He also promised a return to form.

“It won’t happen again,’’ he said.

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