OAKLAND -- On paper, Ben Sheets was tagged with yet another loss on Monday. But the A's righty, who pitched into the seventh inning, can't always be judged by a box score. However, a seemingly lackluster Oakland offense -- which also lost Ryan Sweeney to season-ending knee surgery -- usually can.
Such was the story on Monday, on a night when Sheets showed up with his good stuff but the starting nine didn't exactly follow suit with Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound. In the end, a 2-1 Oakland loss to the Red Sox proved to be the only visible representation of a game that had Sheets throwing "really well," according to manager Bob Geren. "He really did," the A's skipper said. But Sheets, the always honest hurler, slightly begged to differ. "My stuff was below average," he said. "I was able to mix my pitches well. I probably made up two or three pitches from four or five new arm angles." One of those pitches likely went to Adrian Beltre, who was responsible for the deciding run. Beltre went deep after David Ortiz's sac fly brought home former A's utility man Eric Patterson, who opened the fourth inning with a triple. "When I hit it," Beltre said, "it was early, so I got lucky there. But that was a good pitch he left over the plate, and I was able to put a good swing on it." "I don't even know what that was," Sheets said. "I've thrown that pitch 1,000 times this year and gotten outs. ... That pitch didn't do nothing except fly out of the park." Following the fourth, though, Sheets -- pitching in front of a handful of scouts as potential trade bait -- kept the Red Sox off the board and left with two outs in the seventh with seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts attached to his name. It marked his ninth loss of the season, but it also signified the 14th straight outing in which he's pitched at least six frames and the seventh time he's allowed two runs or fewer. "It's been up and down for me," he said. "It seems like every time I get on a high, I come back down. There's still a lot of season left, though." Meanwhile, Rajai Davis' third-inning homer represented the A's lone form of offense, as Matsuzaka gave up just two hits and two walks while striking out six in 6 2/3 innings en route to garnering his seventh win of the season. "He was able to throw strikes with every pitch that he has," Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash said. "He even broke out his changeup, which he doesn't use that much, and it was pretty effective for him. When you can get that cut fastball into lefties and then get ahead with his fastball down and away to righties, he's going to have good outings." "He had a couple variations on his fastball," Geren said. "He had a good breaking ball, and he was able to throw his down-and-away pitch when he needed to. He just didn't leave many balls over the plate to hit." Gabe Gross hit a soft lineout to third base to strand runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh, and the A's again had an opportunity in the eighth, when Cliff Pennington boarded with a single and stole second before being joined by Daric Barton, who walked with two outs. But a Kurt Suzuki groundout ended the inning, and Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon recorded a 1-2-3 ninth to make a rather seamless A's bullpen -- Jerry Blevins, Michael Wuertz and Craig Breslow combined for 2 1/3 innings of one-hit ball with four strikeouts -- seem somewhat forgettable. Furthermore, Oakland again dropped below the .500 mark, which the club hit on Sunday for the first time since June 15 thanks to a season-high-tying five-game win streak. "It didn't end up like we wanted," Sheets said. "We had our chances there at the end, but it just didn't work out."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.