Curt Schilling tried to live up to his stopper reputation, but on a day when the margin for error was slim, the big right-hander was belted around for 11 hits and six runs over 5 1/3 innings, falling short in a duel with Barry Zito.
"I felt like I had to pitch great. I don't feel like I had to do anything I hadn't done before," said Schilling. "Like I said, when you go back and look at it, I made one good pitch and everything else was horrible. Execution-wise, it was just bad pitch after bad pitch. I threw 21 first-pitch strikes, so I was getting ahead. I just didn't make pitches. That was the bottom line."
The Red Sox have lost the past five games pitched by Schilling (14-7, 4.12 ERA). The veteran ace did achieve a personal milestone, racking up career strikeout No. 3,000 by getting Nick Swisher swinging on a splitter in the first inning.
"It's very bittersweet," Schilling said. "The situation we're in now and what we've been going through, this was definitely a day when this team needed its ace to step up, and I didn't."
The Red Sox, who scored a total of 19 runs on the trip, and just three in Oakland, took their first lead since Saturday, when Eric Hinske lined an RBI single to right in the top of the second. But that 1-0 edge did not last long.
Bobby Kielty tied it with a solo shot to center in the bottom of the second. Mark Ellis led off the bottom of the third with a solo homer to left to put Oakland back in front for good.
The Red Sox, as was the case for the entire road trip, struggled to mount offense. Without seven hitters (David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Wily Mo Pena, Alex Gonzalez and Coco Crisp), the Red Sox tried desperately to establish something.
"A half hour before the game, we're sitting in the dugout thinking, 'We're going to win that game.' That [attitude] can never change," Francona said. "We don't have the bats right now that we're accustomed to. The only way I know how to approach this is to just give everything we have. You see [Kevin] Youkilis out in left field, he's running into walls, he's diving, we're just ... we scored I think three runs this series. That's not going to get it done."
Their best chance to get back in the game came in the top of the sixth inning, when, trailing 4-1, they loaded the bases with two outs against Zito. But Dustin Pedroia flied out to left, ending that threat. Then the A's knocked out Schilling by adding two more runs in the bottom of the inning.
"We had a game plan going in," said Schilling. "I felt great. I felt strong. And I just made bad pitch after bad pitch after bad pitch. From an analysis standpoint, it was a very easy game to analyze. It was just bad. All of it was bad. No execution whatsoever."