The eighth time was not the charm. The Red Sox offense wasted a respectable start from John Lackey, and lost their eighth straight chance to return to .500 on the season.
"Waste" really is turning out to be the buzzword for these 2014 Red Sox, and not just in the larger picture. While scoring just two runs in 10 innings is a poor offensive performance even without going into specifics, when looking at how they got there we find ourselves dragged right back to the same focus as we've hit on time and again: wasted opportunities.
John Lackey was not at his best today, but provided the Red Sox with six innings of two-run ball all the same. Certainly the type of performance that could well have earned him a win. But the Red Sox just did not produce behind him. And, sadly, the blame for that falls largely on one player: Jackie Bradley Jr.
In the third, when Grady Sizemore gave the Red Sox their first hit of the afternoon, it was Jackie Bradley Jr. grounding into a double play two at bats later to end the inning. In the fifth, after Sizemore doubled home Mike Carp from second to bring the Sox within a run and Will Middlebrooks walked to load the bases, it was once again Bradley giving the Athletics two outs with one swing of the bat. And in the seventh, with the go-ahead run on third and one out, it was Bradley whose squeeze attempt went right back to Fernando Abad on the mound, leaving Xander Bogaerts stuck at third. He completed his 0-for-4 night with seven men left on base by grounding out in the tenth.
That tenth inning was Boston's last gasp at this one. After Koji Uehara had worked arround a single and a walk in the ninth, Chris Capuano came in to work the tenth, loading the bases with two outs on a double and two walks--one intentional, the other not. Burke Badenhop came in to try and clean up the mess, but Yoenis Cespedes hit the softest of ground balls to third base, and Will Middlebrooks could not get the ball to first in time. It's always frustrating to surrender a run to a "perfectly placed" infield single like that. But it's so much worse when it's the game-winner.
It's a step back for Bradley who now has one hit in his last 15 at bats. But for the Red Sox this seems less like a step back than simply the expected continuation of a never-ending cycle. The Red Sox have made an art of treading water, having now spent the last month anywhere within one to four games of .500. And if seven attempts weren't enough to break that cycle, why should the eighth have been? Why should the ninth be when it comes? Eat your heart out, Sisyphus.