Sox have unappetizing lunch date with Gio

April, 20, 2011
4/20/11
10:18
AM ET
OAKLAND -- Through all the frustration surrounding a balk that wasn’t called and the confusion over an interference call or noncall, Red Sox manager Terry Francona had absolute clarity on why the Red Sox were beaten by the Oakland Athletics, 5-0, Tuesday night, and why they will have their hands full on Wednesday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeGio Gonzalez
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireGio Gonzalez has held opposing hitters to a .182 average so far this season and the Red Sox are collectively hitting .179 on the road. A recipe for disaster?
“The guy pitched a great game tonight,’’ Francona said, referring to Brett Anderson, the 23-year-old lefthander who held the Sox scoreless for eight innings on four singles while striking out eight.

“They’re a hot staff, and they got a guy going Thursday who is hotter than any of them.’’

That would be another precocious lefthander, 25-year-old Gio Gonzalez, who is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA in three starts this season. The Athletics starting pitchers, who swarmed around former pitching coach Curt Young before Tuesday’s game, have allowed just one earned run in their last 33 2/3 innings, an 0.27 ERA.

“We’re going to have to really battle,’’ said Francona, whose team managed a two-out, first-inning single off the wall in right-center by Adrian Gonzalez, then did not have another hit off Anderson until David Ortiz singled through the shift to begin the eighth.

Three different innings, Anderson sent the Sox back to the dugout after throwing fewer than 10 pitches. All eight of his strikeouts came on his breaking ball, which he now throws at two different speeds, making it even more devastating.

“He gets to two strikes and finishes off with breaking balls that were really good,’’ Francona said. “When they look good on TV, they’re good. So many times you watch the game on TV it looks easy (to hit). But there was so much finish to it, they were in and out of the (strike) zone. A couple of them were strikes, but they were in and out and our guys couldn’t lay off.’’

The Sox have lost all seven games they have played on the road so far this season, their worst start ever on the road. They have scored just 16 runs in the 7 road losses, and are batting .179/.262/.260 away from Fenway Park. Their best bet against Gonzalez on Wednesday may be patience; he has walked a dozen batters in just 19 innings, including 6 in 6 innings in his last start against the Tigers.

Francona used all of his righthanded bench players Tuesday, starting Jed Lowrie at short and batting him leadoff, Mike Cameron in right field and Darnell McDonald in center. The three combined to go 0 for 10 with 5 strikeouts.

Lowrie had come into the game with a seven-game hitting streak punctuated by a hugely productive weekend against Toronto at home, in which he batted .600 (10 for 15) with 2 home runs.

“It’s awful early, a small sample,’’ Francona said of the hitting woes on the road. “In a 1-0 game we had a chance.’’

Even with pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury out at second attempting to steal in the eighth because of an interference call (which is how it reads in the official box score, which is what Ellsbury believed had happened, and what bench coach DeMarlo Hale was initially told had happened), the Sox still had a chance against Anderson.

Carl Crawford beat out a two-infield infield hit to short and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled sharply to left. But Anderson disposed of McDonald on three pitches.

“We didn’t do much,’’ said Francona, who was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing that Anderson had balked when he picked off Dustin Pedroia. “We needed a break, we didn’t get anything. When you talk like that, obviously you’re not doing a lot.’’

The loss wasted a strong effort by John Lackey, who had been skipped a start and lined up to face the Athletics because of his great success against them in the past (17-5, 2.90). A leadoff single by Coco Crisp, a stolen base and two infield outs produced a run in the first inning, and that was all the Athletics got off Lackey in six innings.

Sox starters are on a nice roll of their own. In the last four games, they’ve held the opposition to just three earned runs in 26 innings, striking out 20 while walking 7. Clay Buchholz draws Wednesday’s start, and he’s still searching after three starts in which he is 0-2 with a 6.60 ERA. He matched his career high with five walks in five innings in a 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays last Friday night.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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