Another lost weekend has stalled the Boston Red Sox’s playoff hopes.
Looking to avoid their fourth loss in a row, Boston begins a three-game series against the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics at McAfee Coliseum on Monday.
Last Monday, the Red Sox (71-59) were swept in a five-game home series by the New York Yankees to fall 6 1/2 games behind them in the AL East race. They failed to make up any ground after being swept in a three-game series at last-place Seattle this past weekend.
Boston also 5 1/2 games behind AL wild card leader Minnesota.
“We’ve painted ourselves in such a corner, losing games we think we should win,” manager Terry Francona said after Boston was swept in a three-game series at Seattle for the first time since 1989. “We have to keep believing when it’s not very easy to believe.”
The Red Sox also are struggling with injury. Manny Ramirez missed Sunday’s loss with a sore knee, Wily Mo Pena sat out his second straight game with a sore tendon in his left wrist and catcher Doug Mirabelli is suffering from ankle problems.
Kevin Youkilis, who returned after missing two games with the flu, started in left field and misplayed two balls in left field that led to Seattle’s first run in the second inning.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries … and a lot of bad things are coming about right now,” Youkilis said. “We’ve got to make our own luck and play some better ball.”
Gabbard made his major-league debut on July 22 at Seattle and surrendered three runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-2 loss. The left-hander made two appearances out of the bullpen on this road trip for Boston, giving up one run and two hits over 2 2-3 innings.
The Athletics (74-56), who’ve won six straight at home, taking the struggling Red Sox lightly.
“They’re still the Boston Red Sox,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “They’ve still got Manny and (David) Ortiz and (Jonathan) Papelbon, and we’re gonna see (Josh) Beckett and (Curt) Schilling in this series, so we’re gonna have to continue to play good baseball or they’ll put a hurt on us.”
Oakland starter Esteban Loaiza (7-7, 5.12) is trying to close out what’s been a terrific month for him after going 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his first five starts in August.
The veteran right-hander is unbeaten in his last five starts against Boston, going 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA. He gave up three runs and six hits over five innings in a 5-4, 11-inning victory on July 13 at Fenway Park.
Ortiz, who tied a career high with his major league-leading 47th homer Sunday, is 12-for-28 against Loaiza in his career with no homers.
Oakland lost 3-0 at Texas on Sunday to complete a 6-4 road trip and remain 5 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels. The A’s have won four of seven meetings with the Red Sox this year.
Designated hitter Frank Thomas is 9-for-23 with nine RBIs against Boston this season.