OAKLAND, Calif. — What the 2012 Red Sox have become was perfectly illustrated in the fourth inning on Saturday night when Jonny Gomes of the Athletics hit a shallow foul popup along the first base line.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a play, but suddenly pitcher Alfredo Aceves barged in and tried to make the catch and dropped the ball.
After the inning, second baseman Dustin Pedroia confronted Aceves in the dugout and their conversation became heated. Manager Bobby Valentine and third base coach Jerry Royster had to calm the situation down.
The error did not cost the Red Sox a run in a game they lost, 7-1. But it demonstrated just how sloppy and divided the team has become as this lost season winds down.
Valentine said the discussion between Aceves and Pedroia was about where the second baseman was positioned behind the pitcher, not the botched popup. During the inning, Aceves seemed to catch Pedroia by surprise when he tried two pickoff throws to second base.
“It’s Alfredo being Alfredo and Dustin being a baseball player,” Valentine said.
Pedroia wasn’t interested in talking about it.
“That’s none of your guys’ business,” he said. “It’s between teammates.”
Aceves said he was not upset with Pedroia.
“It was about our team. It’s all good,” said the pitcher, who on Aug. 25 was suspended for three games for conduct detrimental to the team. “It’s something we have to communicate about that’s between us.”
The Sox have lost five straight and 10 of their last 13 games. They have been outscored, 48-13, on the first five games of this road trip.
“Yeah,” Pedroia said when asked if the Red Sox had reached the point of embarrassment.
The Athletics have won eight straight for the first time since 2006. Rookie righthander A.J. Griffin came off the disabled list and held the Sox to one run on three hits over seven innings. He had a perfect game into the fifth inning.
Griffin (4-0) struck out five without a walk. He has faced the Sox twice this season and given up three runs over 13 innings.
The Sox went in order in all but three innings. All four of their hits were singles, one on a bunt.
The Athletics have beaten the Red Sox seven straight times, their longest streak against Boston since 1932 when the franchise was in Philadelphia. Oakland will try for the sweep Sunday afternoon with Brett Anderson facing Daisuke Matsuzaka.
In all five games on this trip, the Sox have trailed by at least two runs at some point in the first three innings. Felix Doubront (10-7) was the starter at fault this time.
“It’s getting old. It’s real old,” Valentine said. “The offense is stressed. It’s a tough way to play the game.”
Coco Crisp led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run to left field. It was his third leadoff homer of the season, the second against the Red Sox.
Doubront then gave up four runs in the third.
Crisp started the inning with a single and was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a double to left field by Gomes. Doubront struck out Josh Reddick for the second out.
Yoenis Cespedes singled to left, scoring Gomes. He then stole second and third. After Chris Carter walked, Brandon Inge launched a fastball over the head of Cody Ross in right field.
As he raced back, Ross tried to make a backhanded catch over his head. The ball popped out of his glove for a two-run double.
“Cody almost made a great catch on it to get him out of the inning,’’ Valentine said. “But it didn’t happen.”
Ross crashed into the wall, his right shoulder taking a jolt. He was checked out by a trainer and stayed in the game.
Derek Norris followed with an RBI single.
Doubront needed 77 pitches to get through the three innings. His performance left Red Sox starters with a 5.04 earned run average this season. Only the Royals, Indians, Twins, and Rockies are higher.
Doubront, who was the team’s best starter early in the season, is 0-3 with a 7.22 ERA in his last six starts.
Griffin retired the first 14 batters without the Sox coming close to a hit. Saltalamacchia broke that up with a bunt single against an infield shift. The crowd of 20,315 booed.
“Who cares?” Valentine said.
Saltalamacchia said he was simply trying to get something going for his team.
“It was the fifth inning. It was a five-run game and we’re trying to win. They were playing that shift on me and they were way over,” he said. “It’s part of the game.”
The A’s made it 6-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning off Aceves. Cliff Pennington singled, stole second, and scored on a single by Norris,
The Sox had a few legitimate hits in the sixth inning against Griffin and even scored a run.
Ryan Lavarnway singled to right before being forced at second when Pedro Ciriaco grounded to shortstop. Ciriaco advanced to second when Jacoby Ellsbury grounded to first. The Athletics had a chance at a double play but Carter, the first baseman, made a high throw.
Ciriaco scored when Pedroia singled to left. Cespedes made a strong throw but umpire Phil Cuzzi said Ciriaco got under the tag. The single extended Pedroia’s hit streak to 12 games.
Carter’s home run off Daniel Bard in the seventh inning extended Oakland’s lead to 7-1.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.