OAKLAND, Calif. — Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine got stuck in traffic after picking his son up at San Francisco International Airport and didn’t arrive at Oakland Coliseum until about three hours before the first pitch on Friday night.
He should have kept on driving and never looked back.
The Red Sox were humiliated by the Athletics, losing 20-2. In what has been a season of embarrassing moments for the Sox, this was worst.
It was the worst loss since the Yankees beat the Sox, 22-1, June 19, 2000. They had not allowed 20 runs since Aug. 21, 2009, also against the Yankees.
“It wasn’t any fun for anyone, that’s for sure. Except for the guys on the other side,” Valentine said.
Oakland sent 12 batters to the plate in the seventh inning and scored nine runs. Former Sox outfielder Josh Reddick capped the onslaught with his first career grand slam. He has 28 home runs and 73 RBIs.
George Kottaras, another former Red Sox player, homered twice and drove in five runs. Brandon Moss, yet another former Sox prospect, was 4 for 5 with a home run, two doubles, and a career-high four RBIs.
Oakland had 19 hits, 10 for extra bases.
The 20 runs were the most for Oakland since Sept. 30, 2000 when they beat Texas, 23-2. The Sox, incredibly, have allowed 13 or more runs six times this season.
The 62-71 Sox have lost four straight and nine of their last 12. They were 9-20 in August.
The Sox were only 3½ games out of a wild-card spot when the month started. Now they are 12 behind and looking at the possibility of 90 losses.
With 29 games left, the misery isn’t ending any time soon.
Sox starter Aaron Cook (3-8) didn’t get through the third inning, giving up six runs. The bullpen then allowed 12 runs, with Craig Breslow and Mark Melancon responsible for the seventh-inning debacle.
“I thought they were trying,” Valentine said. “Balls were falling in and going over the fence.”
Cook retired the side in order in the first inning. Then the Athletics started taking batting practice as his sinker stayed up in the strike zone.
“To have to come out in the third inning, I was just shaking my head,” said Cook, who is 1-7 with a 5.7 ERA in his last 10 starts. “Not as much about myself but knowing that [the bullpen] would have to pick up a huge load tonight.”
Yoenis Cespedes singled to start the second inning and scored when Moss doubled to left field.
Jonny Gomes followed with an RBI single to center. Rookie Josh Donaldson then lined a curveball off the cement facing of the stands in left field. It was his fifth home run of the season, the third in as many games.
It got even worse in the third inning.
Reddick doubled to the gap in right. With two outs, Moss hit a ball over third base that deflected away for an RBI double. When Gomes singled to center and Moss scored, Valentine finally came out to the mound and Cook was done after only 37 pitches.
Junichi Tazawa, whose job appears to be cleaning up messes left by the starters, retired all four batters he faced.
Alfredo Aceves, the former closer, was next out of the bullpen, in the fifth. He got two outs before nicking Cespedes with a pitch. Moss then hammered a cutter deep to right field for his 15th home run.
Daniel Bard pitched the sixth inning for the Red Sox, his first appearance in the majors since June 3 in Toronto, when he walked six batters and hit two. That led to his demotion the next day.
Bard got an out before Kottaras homered to right field. Cliff Pennington singled but Bard escaped further damage. Bard’s best fastballs hit 93 m.p.h.
“I definitely made big steps in the right direction and I just want to continue it for the next month. I know I have to prove some things to some people and I’m ready to do that,” Bard said.
“It was good. I felt really comfortable out there. The adrenaline is there. It’s not the eighth inning with a one-run lead but it’s a lot bigger stage than I’ve been used to the last couple of months. I wasn’t quite as sharp as I wanted to be, [but] it was great to be out there.”
As Red Sox pitchers were giving up runs, Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy (8-5) cruised along, going 6⅓ innings for the win.
He was helped by the inability of the Sox to collect a clutch hit. The Sox had nine hits but were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Scott Podsednik and Dustin Pedroia (2 for 4 to extend his hit streak to 11 games) had singles to start the first inning. But Ellsbury grounded into a double play before Ross flied to center.
James Loney and Mike Aviles had singles in the second inning. Then Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias left them stranded.
The Sox finally scored in the fourth inning when Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered to right field. It was his 23d on the season.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.