Error-prone A’s challenged to cut mistakes vs. Red Sox

Oakland manager Mark Kotsay finds himself searching for answers to a question he wasn’t expecting as the Athletics seek to turn around a sloppy start to the season in a rematch with the visiting Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.

The Red Sox routed the hosts 9-0 in the series opener Monday, taking advantage of five Oakland errors in the first three innings to build an eight-run lead.

Kotsay insisted “we couldn’t get out of our own way the first three innings” and challenged his players, who have an MLB-worst 13 errors already this season, to flip a new switch overnight.

“I wish I had an answer for the defense. I don’t,” Kotsay said. “They’re going to have to get better; that’s all there is to it.

“These first five games, if you had told me we were going to play as bad defensively as we have, I’d have said you were dead wrong. We’ll see how they respond (Tuesday).”

Interestingly, just one of Oakland’s five errors Monday came on a traditional fielding play, that occurring in the second inning when center fielder JJ Bleday turned a routine fly ball into a three-base miscue.

Otherwise, catcher Shea Langeliers threw wildly on a steal attempt, and right fielder Lawrence Butler (after catching a sacrifice fly), first baseman Ryan Noda (attempting to get a forceout) and pitcher Joe Boyle (on a pickoff) also committed errors.

On a night when two pitchers limited the A’s to four hits with 13 strikeouts, the Red Sox didn’t need the help. But with Tanner Houck going the first six innings of the shutout, it gave each of Boston’s five starters a strong effort the first time through the rotation.

Seeking to make it six straight will be the starter who got the run going, right-hander Brayan Bello (1-0, 3.60 ERA). On Opening Day in Seattle, he held the Mariners to two runs and five hits in five innings in a 6-4 win.

Bello struck out just two and didn’t walk anyone, the latter becoming the first of four outings already this season in which the Boston starter didn’t issue a free pass. The only one who did, Kutter Crawford, walked just one in his six innings.

“We build off each other,” said Garrett Whitlock, who pitched five innings of Sunday’s 5-1 win at Seattle. “We’re all there competing with each other and cheering each other on.”

Bello will look to avenge what happened to him when he faced the A’s for the only time in his career last season. The 24-year-old gave up two-run home runs in each of the first, second and fourth innings before leaving in a July game in Oakland, taking the loss in a 6-5 defeat.

It was the only time Bello has allowed three homers in the same game in his career.

Home runs have been hard to come by in the five games played in Oakland this season. The A’s and Cleveland Guardians combined for just four in their season-opening, four-game series, before no balls left the yards Monday.

A’s left-hander Alex Wood (0-1, 16.20) didn’t allow a homer Thursday in his first start, but he did little else right as he was crushed for six runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings in an 8-0 loss to the Guardians.

The 33-year-old has beaten 21 teams in his career, but never the Red Sox. He’s faced them three times, once as a starter, without a decision and a 2.79 ERA in 9 2/3 innings.