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There were lots of red shirts in the stands to cheer Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and the rest of the visiting squad in a game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, April 15, 2009. Wakefield kept the A's off balance all day, holding them hitless through seven innings on his way to a complete game win. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)

For a team that struggles to fill the Oakland Coliseum seats, the A's didn't catch any breaks with their 2011 schedule.

The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, who have attracted the American League's biggest crowds on the road for each of the past 10 years, are in Oakland for a grand total of five games this season. That's fewer than they will host against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Florida Marlins, who don't even play in the same league as the A's.

It's one of the odd quirks that appear annually in the major league schedule. But such scenarios make things tough on the A's, who finished 29th out of 30 major league teams in 2010 in average home attendance (17,511).

The A's begin a two-game series against the Red Sox on Tuesday. They host the Yankees for three games beginning May 30.

"It's difficult, but some years are better than others," said Ken Pries, the A's vice president of communications. "Would we like to have the Red Sox in (for more games)? Sure. But you're doing your best with the cards you're dealt."

It bears noting that some of the A's attendance woes are self-inflicted.

A's co-owner Lew Wolff has made no secret he wants to move the team to San Jose, which has alienated many Oakland fans. And the A's have not embraced their storied history and integrated former players into the game-day experience as well as other teams, such as the Giants.

But in the A's defense, they're playing in an outdated ballpark that does not attract fans the way AT&T Park has for the Giants.

The A's need all the home games they can get against top-draw opponents. Last season, they hosted two three-game series each against the Red Sox and the Yankees. While those games did not sell out, they boosted the A's attendance considerably.

Outside of their three-game set against the cross-bay rival Giants, which drew 103,503, the two Yankees series drew the top crowds of any home series, with totals of 79,396 and 72,046.

A Red Sox series in mid-July brought the next-biggest turnout for any three-game series at 70,068.

Would Major League Baseball consider helping attendance-starved teams such as the A's by ensuring a certain number of home games against Boston and New York every season?

"There are several teams that would argue they need help with attendance, but you can't penalize other teams," said Katy Feeney, MLB's senior vice president in charge of scheduling. "There's a ripple effect with everything you do."

The master schedule is generated by a computer. But Feeney and a small committee -- made up of one front office official from each division -- review the schedule and make adjustments.

With six teams in the N.L. Central and four in the A.L. West, there's an imbalance that Feeney said makes it difficult for teams to play the same opponent an equal number of times every season.

That's how the A's wound up with just the two home games against Boston and the three-game set against the Yankees. All five games are on weekdays.

The A's played 12 home games against those teams in 2010, with one of those series -- a three-game set against the Red Sox in September -- on a weekend. The A's hosted a combined six games against the Yankees and the Red Sox in 2009, both series going Monday-Wednesday.

The A's have tried to make this year's home schedule as attractive as possible.

They scheduled a doubleheader July 16 against the Los Angeles Angels, where one ticket is good for both games. The fan-friendly idea generally has gone by the wayside in today's game.

They also have three bobblehead days slated to honor Rickey Henderson (April 30), former catcher and current broadcaster Ray Fosse (Aug. 13) and rapper M.C. Hammer (July 17), who once served as an A's bat boy.

"Making the schedule is very complicated for the league, and every team makes their claims," said Jim Leahey, the A's vice president of sales and marketing. "(This year's schedule) definitely adds a challenge, but we're trying to do things to make it a positive."