Sox seem to be cratering in California

OAKLAND -- The Boston Red Sox didn't do much on the field, and then they didn't have much to say about it afterward.

After Friday night's 20-2 loss to the Oakland A's put yet another embarrassing exclamation point on the disappointing season, the Red Sox retreated to their quiet clubhouse and gave a collective shrug of the shoulders.

"We got our ass kicked tonight," starter Aaron Cook said. "We feel bad about it. We're going to come out tomorrow and try to do better."

Dustin Pedroia wasn't interested in giving his state-of-the-team perspective after this one either: "There's really nothing to talk about. The score was 20-2."

When manager Bobby Valentine was asked to evaluate the effort, he had no complaints.

"I thought they were trying," Valentine said. "The balls were just falling in and going over the fence."

When Valentine was asked if he needed to say anything to his club, he said only that "we're going to send a good pitcher [Felix Doubront] out there tomorrow and shut them down and give us a chance to score some runs, and not play from three or four runs back."

At this point, with the Red Sox now 12 games back in the wild-card race, the particulars are virtually irrelevant, but this one was so awful that it was noteworthy on a few accounts.

It marked Boston's worst loss since a 22-1 defeat to the New York Yankees on June 19, 2000. It was the most runs the Red Sox had allowed since Aug. 21, 2009, also against the Yankees.

And in the bigger picture, a fourth consecutive loss on this West Coast trip dropped the Red Sox to 62-71, nine games under .500 for the first time since July 18, 1997. That was the last season the Red Sox finished under .500, a feat they will almost certainly match this year. That team was nine games under on its way up, finishing just six games under. This team seems to be heading down.

The pitching has been the problem on this trip, with the Red Sox allowing 21 runs in the first three games, even before the Friday night debacle. Aaron Cook wasted little time in continuing that trend.

Although he got three outs in the first, they were all fly balls, and Valentine knew that was a bad omen.

"That wasn't his style," Valentine said. "He couldn't get the sinker down."

After that, the A's pounded Cook for four runs in the second, two on Josh Donaldson's two-run homer. They scored two more in the third before Cook trudged off the mound, his team trailing 6-0.

"I was leaving balls up to a pretty good hitting team," Cook said. "They are hot right now. They were hitting them on the barrel. It's not a good night."

It was a good night for one member of the Boston pitching staff, relatively speaking.

Daniel Bard made his return to a big league mound after two months at Triple-A to find himself. Having failed to make Bard a starter, the Red Sox sent him down to rediscover the stuff that made him one of baseball's best late-inning relievers. Bard gave up one run in his one inning of work, on a homer by George Kottaras.

"It wasn't the eighth inning with a one-run lead, but it's a lot bigger stage than where I've been pitching the last couple months," Bard said. "It was fun. I felt comfortable out there. I wasn't as sharp as I'd like to be, but I haven't pitched in four days. It was good to be back out there."

Bard had said his focus in the minors was on getting back to being the pitcher who dominated with an upper-90s fastball and a slider. His fastball was 93 mph on Friday.

"It wasn't perfect, but it is almost September," Bard said. "I feel like I worked really hard to get back here. Everything is not perfect and it's not where I want it, but I made some big steps in the right direction. Let's try to continue that the next month. I know I have to prove some things to some people. I'm ready to do that."