OAKLAND -- David Ortiz sensed a change in the clubhouse this week. The long, drawn-out series against the Yankees and the long flight to Oakland may have taken its toll. "Once we got to the West Coast, it was a different feeling," Ortiz said after the Boston Red Sox lost, 3-2, to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night at McAfee Coliseum. "We're playing well, but, I don't know, it's just not there. We don't have the same intensity we've had before." Kevin Youkilis, who had two hits including an RBI triple, didn't want to use the schedule as an excuse. He does feel the Red Sox might be underperforming.
"We play the Yankees series, and then we're thrown off our time schedule," Youkilis said. "But really, we just aren't hitting well. We just haven't done well." The result has been a four-game losing streak and six losses in the past seven games. On Thursday, the A's will be looking to sweep the Red Sox in a four-game home series for the first time. "The way we're swinging the bats right now, they were able to put us in a hole," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We hit into some double plays early, rallied late, but we're not scoring runs in bunches." Francona, who looked like he hadn't slept in days afterward, got upset over a strike call on Dustin Pedroia in the eighth inning and then got kicked out of his first game of the season by home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna. "All I said was, 'That pitch was up,' and made a gesture that the pitch was up," Francona said. "Every once in a while, I think we should be able to yell, 'That pitch was up.' Whether I agree or disagree with his strike zone, that's going to happen. It doesn't matter, that wasn't the game. It just wasn't good for my blood pressure." Ortiz also had a problem with Iassogna on a check swing call, and the two exchanged words. "There's really not much you can do about it," Ortiz said. "We just have to let them know how we feel about it. At least he didn't turn his back on me. He gave me the chance to say what I was going to say and then go back." The lack of offensive execution overshadowed yet another solid pitching effort. Tim Wakefield made some mechanical adjustments between starts and showed better command. He allowed three runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out a season-high eight. The three runs were the fewest he's allowed in a start since May 10, although that didn't keep him from losing for the fourth time in five decisions. "I felt good, but unfortunately [Joe] Kennedy pitched better," Wakefield said. "I worked on a few things in the bullpen with Doug [Mirabelli] and got my mechanics back to where I needed them to be. Tonight I made one bad pitch, and they scored two extra runs." Wakefield (5-7) retired 10 of 11 hitters after giving up a leadoff single to Travis Buck. The fourth inning got away from him, though. Eric Chavez hit a one-out double, but Wakefield came back to get Dan Johnson on a groundout. He walked Shannon Stewart, and Jack Cust followed with a run-scoring double. Bobby Crosby then added a two-run single. "I make a good pitch to get the second out, and then Cust hits a pretty good pitch," Wakefield said. "I was 1-2 on Crosby, and I tried to throw a hard one in the dirt but left it up." Crosby, who has two hits in the series, got the pitch he was looking for. "The main thing with a knuckleball is you want to get it when it's up," Crosby said. "You have to take advantage when you can." Wakefield threw 80 strikes among his 116 pitches over 6 2/3 innings. The Red Sox made things tough on themselves again, grounding into three double plays in the first five innings before getting two of the runs back. Manny Ramirez led off the seventh with a double, and Youkilis followed with his triple. Wily Mo Pena's grounder to second plated Youkilis. Boston has grounded into at least three double plays in four of six June games, including seven in the last two against Oakland. Hideki Okajima pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.21.
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.