OAKLAND — Beneath the rubble where this Athletics team, and organization, exist, was a series victory over the Red Sox.
The Red Sox fell to the A’s in an uninspiring 6-5 rubber match loss Wednesday, snapping a streak of four straight series wins.
The Red Sox (51-46) are 2½ games behind the Astros for the third wild card spot. But it didn’t have to be that way. The Red Sox entered Tuesday just 1½ games behind Houston. The Astros fell to the Rockies on Tuesday but won, 4-1, Wednesday to split the series.
Had the Red Sox taken three from Oakland, a team that has been swept an astonishing 13 times this year, they would have traveled back to Boston just a half-game back of Houston.
Instead, true to form, the Sox reverted back to their middling ways, finishing the road trip 3-3.
In short, the Red Sox haven’t convinced the front office to buy before the upcoming Aug. 1 deadline.
“We have to keep winning series and make it close,” said Rob Refsnyder, who finished the day 1 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. “Obviously, we’re still [2½] games back. But we have to keep it going. If not, then you can’t blame [the front office]. It’s all part of the job and the business. We’ve been too inconsistent to get a good bearing on it.”
It wasn’t Brayan Bello’s day.
After putting together seven consecutive quality starts, while posting a 2.51 ERA in that span, the 24-year-old righthander was pounded, allowing a trio of two-run homers.
Justin Turner put his team ahead, 2-0, when he launched a two-run shot of his own in the top of the first inning off A’s starter Ken Waldichuk, improving his hit streak to 14 games. But the A’s (27-71) quickly erased that lead in the bottom half of the first when JJ Bleday blasted a two-run homer with no outs and Tony Kemp on first after a leadoff single.
In the second, Cody Thomas yanked an outside changeup to right-center for a two-run poke. In the fourth, Jace Peterson made it 6-2 with his homer against Bello, who had never given up three homers in a big league start.
“Usually they don’t hit the ball out of the ballpark and they did,” said manager Alex Cora. “We just have to get ready for [Bello’s] next one. I think control wasn’t great. The changeup wasn’t good early on. And obviously, they did a good job offensively.”
Bello (7-6) was done after four innings, having allowed six runs on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
“The changeup in particular wasn’t great, and I suffered the consequences,” said Bello.
The Red Sox generated two runs in the fifth inning on Refsnyder’s run-scoring single and an RBI ground out by Turner. Adam Duvall came around on an error — one of four by the Athletics — in the sixth, but Boston’s comeback attempt ended there.
“They threw the ball around,” said Cora, noting that the A’s defense played a part in his club being able to push across some runs. “We were 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position. It was OK. It wasn’t great.”
OK but not great has summed up this Red Sox season. Even though they have taken care of business for much of the last two weeks — entering the day with the best record in the majors since June 30 — they have missed out on chances to make a legitimate run.
As August approaches, the standings hold that much more weight and are tough not to pay attention to. At least for Refsnyder.
“I mean, I look at it. I’m not gonna lie,” said Refsndyer. “It’s hard not to. It’s your livelihood, and you’re looking to go to the postseason. I don’t know how other guys feel. I definitely look at it and check the scores and stuff like that. I’d be lying if I said I don’t.”
The Red Sox brass is paying attention, too.