OAKLAND, Calif. — There are some common themes for the beaten down, stumbling Boston Red Sox lately.
Their starting pitchers take a pounding early and the hitters are left trying to play catch up. Those hitters still left, that is.
Seth Smith hit a two-run homer, Stephen Drew hit a solo shot for his first clout since joining Oakland and the Athletics beat Boston 6-2 on Sunday for their season-best ninth straight win.
And the sixth straight defeat for the Red Sox, who traded away several star players to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 25.
“We don’t have the firepower to keep climbing out of big holes early,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “It’s a tough way to make a living.”
The A’s outscored the Red Sox 33-5 in the series and hit nine home runs — five of those in Friday night’s 20-2 rout, two Saturday and two more Sunday. That after hitting four in the series finale at Cleveland on Thursday.
“It’s unacceptable,” Boston right fielder Cody Ross said.
Red Sox starting pitchers have lasted 3 2-3 innings or fewer in each of the past three games, a first since June 16-18, 2000.
The A’s won their eighth in a row against the Red Sox to match their longest winning streak in the rivalry since the Philadelphia A’s did so May 2-28, 1932. The 8-1 record against Boston also set an Oakland single-season mark, topping the previous 9-3 by the 1971 and ’88 teams and the 18-3 by the 1928 squad.
“We’re really not doing anything well,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “Nobody’s quitting. We’re professionals, we’re going to play as hard as we can. This isn’t a trying league. You have to play well and perform well to win games, and we haven’t done that.”
The low-budget A’s are doing it all.
In one impressive 10-day stretch, Oakland (76-57) is suddenly in a tie with the New York Yankees for the second-best record in the American League behind the two-time reigning AL champion Texas Rangers (79-54).
“It’s crazy,” pitcher Brett Anderson said. “Who would have predicted that Sept. (2) that we’d be tied with the Yankees for the same record? Everything’s working right now — offense, defense, pitching. When that’s happening, special things are going to happen.”
Anderson (3-0) won his third straight start since returning from a 14-month absence to recover from Tommy John surgery. Having him back is a big boost for the AL wild-card leading A’s down the stretch after they lost Bartolo Colon to a 50-game suspension Aug. 22.
Reddick added a sacrifice fly and Yoenis Cespedes drove in a run with a groundout for the A’s. They have the club’s longest winning run since 10 in a row from June 8-18, 2006, in the last year they reached the playoffs.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-4) had another rough day in the right-hander’s second straight short start at the Oakland Coliseum. On July 2, Dice-K allowed five runs in one-plus inning while dealing with a stiff neck. This time, he was tagged for a season-high six runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings. He struck out four and walked four in his second-shortest outing after that previous start here.
Matsuzaka is 0-3 with an 11.81 ERA on the road — including 0-2 with a 21.21 ERA in the two stops at Oakland.
“I don’t necessarily feel that I pitch poorly here but this team’s really hot right now,” he said. “I’m really disappointed as a starter I wasn’t able to do my job today.”
Drew, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 20, also hit an RBI single in the third and an eighth-inning double for his first three-hit game for Oakland. Coco Crisp walked twice, scored two runs and stole his 31st base.
Anderson allowed one run on five hits in six innings, struck out four and walked one in another impressive day since returning from his injury — even if he raised his ERA from 0.64 to 0.90.
After Pedroia reached on an infield single in the sixth inning that was stopped from going for extra bases by diving third baseman Josh Donaldson, Ross hit an RBI single. Scott Podsednik tried to score from second but left fielder Cespedes grabbed Ross’ one-hopper and fired home to catcher Derek Norris to save a second run.
Mauro Gomez hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth for the Red Sox. Boston dropped its sixth straight and remained winless on this West Coast swing, which finishes with a three-game series at Seattle beginning Monday.
Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a first-inning single.
“You have to believe it’s going to turn around,” Pedroia said. “It’s not fun, especially in this atmosphere. We never lost before.”
NOTES: Boston beat Oakland at Fenway Park on April 30, then lost the next eight meetings with the Athletics this year. … Dice-K threw 97 pitches during his short outing. … Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury got a scheduled day off. … Boston recalled INF Ivan DeJesus Jr. — another player from the Dodgers trade — from Triple-A Pawtucket.