BOSTON -- Brett Anderson had the credentials to do it.
The A's lefty, entering Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox looking to halt the club's five-game winless drought and save a drained bullpen that was overworked in the previous day's 14-inning contest, brought with him a 2-0 record and 2.65 ERA in three career starts at Fenway Park.
But one dysfunctional breaking ball and two long balls later, Anderson was gone after just five innings. And the A's, with not enough offense to counter the attack, were ushered out of Boston with a 6-3 loss, marking their second-straight three-game sweep at the hands of an American League East powerhouse.
Anderson gave up nine hits and five runs, with two walks and two strikeouts, and Oakland's starting staff is now 1-4 with an 8.29 ERA in the team's last seven games, allowing at least four earned runs in each -- all following a 16-game stretch in which A's starters went 5-5 with a 2.21 ERA and .238 opponents' batting average.
The Red Sox, who tagged Oakland for 23 runs in the weekend set, were well aware of those very numbers.
"We just beat up on the best pitching in the league," said Boston's David Ortiz, who went 6-for-11 in the series. "You look at the board, and those guys' ERA, it seems like they're playing Nintendo with the hitters or something like that. It's just crazy, you know? But if you look at them, pretty much every single one of them knows how to spot their pitches. They can throw any pitch at any time. That's what makes them so good."
Normally, yes, but that good has been missing. And it just so happens that the previously absent offense has suddenly found life.
"I think, sooner or later, it was bound to happen for us to start swinging the bats," said Mark Ellis. "When we hit, we don't pitch, and when we don't hit, we pitch. That's how you lose games. Hopefully we can get it all together and get on a little bit of a roll."
Oakland got a long ball of its own from Kevin Kouzmanoff in the third inning, but it was the ones before and after from the other side that dictated the game.
Anderson offered up back-to-back singles to Ortiz and Jed Lowrie to open the second, and an ensuing inside breaking ball to Carl Crawford made its way just over the right-field wall to hand the Red Sox a three-run lead.
"That was a great swing -- and against a guy that's really been tough on us," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We have nobody with numbers against this guy. He's kind of had his way with us."
"It wasn't really a location problem," Anderson said. "It was more lack of movement and sharpness to it. It just kind of rolled right into his bat instead of breaking hard away from him."
The laboring southpaw walked away from the frame with 53 pitches attached to his name, and in the fourth -- for the second time of the day but just the fourth all season -- he surrendered a home run to another lefty, this time to Adrian Gonzalez in the form of a two-run shot into the Green Monster Seats.
All four long balls against left-handed hitters have come in Anderson's last two starts. The previous 60 of his career, in comparison, resulted in just six. Much of that can be traced to a continual struggle with a breaking ball that was nearly untouchable at the start of the season.
"My stuff was pretty bad," he said. I'll go back and look at it mechanically and hopefully make an adjustment, get my breaking ball back to where it has been and where I want it to be. It's not very good right now. It's just kind of rolling in there. It doesn't have any sharpness going into the zone, and it's not a good swing-and-miss pitch. Even when I get ahead and set them up for it, it's just kind of rolling through the zone and getting hit, whether it's a righty or lefty."
Anderson said such issues have surfaced in the past "a little bit, but not where I'm at right now.
"Usually, even if it was slow, it would be 82-83 [mph], and right now, it's 79-80 [mph]. Hopefully I can make a mechanical adjustment and get it back to where it needs to be."
As for his fastball, "I can get outs with it if I just make quality pitches and locate well, and I haven't been doing that the past couple of starts," he noted.
Following Anderson's five-inning performance, rookie Fautino De Los Santos was handed the ball for two frames. The hard-throwing righty gave up a run in the sixth, but he also struck out four and walked none.
The A's, meanwhile, took advantage of a wild John Lackey, who hit three batters in the game -- two of which scored. The Boston right-hander plunked David DeJesus in the first frame, and after Anderson hit Crawford with a pitch in the third, home-plate umpire Larry Vanover issued warnings to both sides.
"I didn't mean to hit him," Anderson said. "My stuff wasn't good enough to hit him today. I tried to go in, and it got away from me a bit. It wasn't intentional."
Just an inning later, Lackey hit Kurt Suzuki -- who ultimately scored on an RBI base hit from Daric Barton -- without a word from Vanover, who again stayed quiet when Conor Jackson was hit by a Lackey pitch in the sixth. However, Lackey again paid for it, as Jackson was brought home via a run-scoring double off the bat of Barton, who is 6-for-13 since being dropped to the sixth spot in the order.
Oakland will look to halt its season-high-tying six-game losing streak on Monday in Baltimore, where the team is set to begin a three-game series against an Orioles team it swept last weekend.
"We just have to get it going tomorrow," manager Bob Geren said. "That's all you can look forward to. You can't look back. We've played well against Baltimore in the past, we've played well against them this year, so we'll start tomorrow."