BOSTON -- The team that showed up for the first A's game of May was nothing like the team that was the best in the American League in April.
For the first time this season the A's were completely not competitive in Friday night's 7-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park.
It wasn't just that the six-run margin of difference was two runs greater than in any of the A's April losses in an 18-10 first month of the season. It was that starter Dan Straily didn't pitch well. Reliever Ryan Cook gave up a grand slam, three of the runners belonging to reliever Dan Otero, who also struggled.
It was that the offense generated no pressure on Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, a pitcher Oakland had handled with ease in the past. The A's didn't put many men on base, and when they did they were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Straily wanted to take the loss on his shoulders.
"It was a frustrating day. I was fighting myself," he said. "It felt like I fell behind every single hitter 2-0. When you do that, it's no way to pitch."
Straily was bailed out of a jam in the fifth inning by Fernando Abad. When the sixth inning rolled around, Otero faced four men and three reached base. That led to Cook entering from the bullpen.
Cook turned a 2-1 game into a 6-1 blowout when Dustin Pedroia hammered his 100th major league homer.
"I just hung a slider," said Cook, who had only given up two hits in his first nine appearances.
The right-hander started off throwing two good sliders to put Pedroia in an 0-2 hole. It was the exact opposite of the way Straily pitched, which was good. But the follow-up was disastrous.
"I felt like he hadn't seen a good one," Cook said of Pedroia. "I think it was the right pitch ... if I execute it. If I do, he swings over it or maybe grounds into a double play."
Instead, Pedroia, who hadn't homered in his last 160 at-bats dating back to the middle of last September, hit the top of the wall in left field. The A's challenged that the ball didn't clear the red line at the summit of the 37-foot-high Green Monster, but the review process didn't help the A's one bit.
"Pedroia did what he's supposed to do with it," Cook said.
The A's still have the best record in the A.L. at 18-11 and their starting pitching leads the league in ERA at 2.88.
Straily, though, hasn't been much of a part of that with a 1-2 record and 5.01 ERA. He's the only A's starter to fail to throw at least five innings every time out. Straily's 41/3 innings Friday was his second sub-five-inning start.
In a different time and place the A's might begin thinking about their options with Straily. But Oakland has already lost two starting pitchers, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, to season-ending Tommy John-style elbow ligament replacement surgery. As deep as they are, the A's don't have an unlimited pool of pitchers.
Still, the A's need to get more competitive innings out of Straily. They'll focus on seeing if he can get back to throwing first-pitch strikes, something he was able to do as a rookie 10-game winner last year.
"When he's not ahead in the count, he can be pretty predictable," manager Bob Melvin said. "He has a lot of weapons, but he's got to be ahead in the count."
Follow John Hickey on Twitter at twitter.com/JHickey3.
A's (Tommy Milone 0-2)
at Boston (Jon Lester 2-4), 10:35 a.m. CSNCA