By MyFM's Jake Archer - The Oakland A's have the Boston Red Sox number. Well, at least this year they did. The A's took two out of three from Boston out on the West Coast last month, and the Sean Manaea no-hitter seemed to halt Boston's historically good start. After that, they've played pretty mediocre ball it seems and now the A's were coming to Fenway for a visit.
On Monday night, the series started with Manaea getting another go at the Sox. He'd be opposed by Rick Porcello, who had been awesome all year until his previous start when he was roughed up by the Yankees. Both guys worked through two scoreless before the offenses found a way to get something going. In the top of the third, Matt Joyce took Porcello deep with two outs to make it 1-0 in favor of Oakland.
In the bottom half, the Sox grabbed two back with two outs. After Manaea punched out Rafael Devers and Sandy Leon, Mookie Betts singled to center and stole second. Manaea then unleashed a wild pitch, letting Betts go to third. The batter, Andrew Benintendi, grounded to third but Oakland's Matt Chapman sailed the throw to first. It was a costly error, as Betts scored to tie it and Benintendi advanced to second. Things would get even worse for the A's when Hanley Ramirez smacked a single to right to take the lead. Boston had gotten to Manaea, finally (they'd actually picked up their first hit off of him in the second).
Porcello couldn't hold down the A's in the top of the fourth however, and he got tagged for three runs. After Khris Davis grounded out, Matt Olson and Chapman hit back-to-back singles. Mark Canha struck out, but Jonathan Lucroy doubled to drive in both runners. The next batter, rookie Dustin Fowler, tripled to left to make it 4-2. "Slick Rick" wasn't doing so hot.
Come the fifth inning, Boston was ready to strike back. Leon led off with a single and Betts doubled to put both runners in scoring position. After a flyout by Benintendi, Hanley hit into a fielder's choice to score Leon from third and cut into the deficit. Porcello again couldn't figure out how to keep Oakland off the board, as he allowed Olson to hit a solo-shot in the next half-inning. The A's had taken the run right back. That was Porcello's final inning, as he was replaced by Heath Hembree to start the seventh. The line on "Pretty Ricky" was six innings pitched, nine hits, five runs, no walks and five strikeouts. He'd end up taking his first loss of the year.
In the bottom of the seventh, Devers led off with a solo shot. After Leon reached on an error by Chapman (his second of the game), Manaea was pulled. Leon wouldn't come around to score, so Manaea's final line was six innings pitched, four runs (three earned) on eight hits, one walk and four Ks. It wasn't quite a no-hitter, but it was a serviceable start. He'd end up getting the win and moving to 5-4 on the season.
It was 5-4 Oakland heading into the eighth, and the Sox called on Carson Smith to keep it there. The third pitch he threw was launched to center by Davis, and Sox pitchers just could not get a stop when they needed one. Of course, you probably know by now but Smith threw his glove in the dugout after the inning and ended up messing up his shoulder. He then went on to blame fatigue from pitching too much, which Alex Cora scoffed at. Smith has been a total mess in his Sox tenure, and hopefully it's over for him here.
JD Martinez, who has been red-hot, led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo shot of his own. The Sox were back within one, but they couldn't push across the tying run and lost 6-5. Blake Treinen picked up the save and the Sox were dealt another frustrating loss. They'd get back to it on Tuesday night, with Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound opposite Daniel Mengden.
It took no time for Oakland to jump all over E-Rod. Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder hit back-to-back singles to start the game and after E-Rod picked up two outs, Chapman doubled to drive in both runs and make it 2-0 early. In the second, a special moment happened as Oakland's Stephen Piscotty homered to left. Piscotty's mother had just passed away and he was back with the team for the first time after being with his family. Even as a Red Sox fan, I didn't mind seeing that homer go out of the park.
Boston bounced back for a run in the fourth when Martinez reached and advanced to second on a throwing error by Chapman, Xander Bogaerts singled and Mitch Moreland grounded into an RBI fielder's choice. Another run came in the fifth when Benintendi, who has struggled with his power stroke so far, hit a two-out shot to make it 3-2 Oakland. To start the sixth, Steven Wright made his first appearance of the season, replacing Rodriguez on the mound. Wright has been out due to injury and also suspension, and frankly I wasn’t overjoyed to see him back. Regardless, E-Rod’s final line was three runs on six hits, no walks and four strikeouts in five innings pitched. It wasn’t disasterous, but we need more.
In the seventh, Lou Trivino replaced Mengden for Oakland. Mengden had turned in a pretty good start of just two runs (one earned) on eight hits, no walks and three Ks in six innings. He’d held the Red Sox at bay and allowed his team to cling to a 3-2 lead. That lead ballooned a bit in the eighth, when Wright allowed singles to Davis and Chapman with one out. Cora came to get Wright and replace him with Bobby Poyner, who had been called up to fill the spot that Carson Smith vacated. Poyner got an out but then had Canha smoke a two-run double to left to put the A’s up 5-2.
The Sox tried to rally in the ninth but fell short again. Blake Treinen struck out Devers to start the inning but allowed him to reach on a wild pitch for the third strike. Then Brock Holt came up with the first pinch-hit of the Red Sox season, which ended up being a double to left to put two men in scoring position. Betts grounded out to score Devers but that was all they could get and the Sox lost another one to Oakland, this time 5-3. Mengden picked up the win, Rodriguez took the loss and Treinen got another save. The Sox were having a rough go of it with the A’s, who now had won their second series against them this year and would be trying to go for the sweep.
Luckily for Boston, Wednesday was “Sale Day” as Chris Sale was taking the ball looking to avoid the sweep. On the mound for the A’s would be 30-year-old journeyman Trevor Cahill. Cahill had success as a young pitcher in Oakland before falling off and taking a tour around the majors. He returned to the team he broke in with this offseason and has pitched well so far.
The Red Sox attacked Cahill right away though. Betts singled and then advanced to second on an error by the left fielder, Chad Pinder. Benintendi followed with a single to right to put runners on the corners, and then Hanley came up with an RBI groundout. Martinez stepped to the plate and unloaded on another homer to center, to make it 3-0 before you could blink. That was really all Chris Sale would need.
Sale went into the fifth without allowing a run, but a leadoff walk to Pinder would come back to bite him. After striking out Lucroy, Sale made a mistake and Semien took him out for a two-run homer. The way things had been going, Red Sox fans could sit and wonder if this was the start of the A’s onslaught. They’d found a way to beat Boston quite regularly thus far, so who’s to say this would be different?
Well, Sale got through the inning and then was done for the day. He had a short, but effective outing as he has quite often this year. The final line for the ace was only five innings pitched, but just two runs on two hits, four walks and nine Ks. If we didn’t know about the fact that Sale is going with a different approach this season and that the Sox are handling him differently, it’d be fair to wonder if something was up. He’s pitched less deep into games, walked more batters, struck out less (although he struck out EVERYONE last year) and hasn’t been quite as dominant. His numbers are still great and he picked up another win in this one to move to 4-1, but yea, the five innings at 102 pitches wasn’t the best.
Cahill meanwhile, was also pulled to start the sixth. The big righty went five innings while allowing three runs on five hits one walk and one punchout. He’d settled down nicely after a rough first inning and actually turned in a decent start. He actually probably should have stayed in longer with only 88 pitches, because Ryan Dull replaced him and things went badly for Oakland.
Right out of the bullpen, Dull allowed a single to Hanley and walked Martinez. The next batter up, Bogaerts, got a pitch he liked and put one of the most beautiful swings on it that I’ve ever seen. The ball was launched deep into the night over everything in left for a three-run jack. The Sox were in front 6-2 and they’d need the bullpen to step up. However, that’s easier said than done.
Hembree came in to replace Barnes in the seventh (don’t look now but Barnes has pitched halfway decent lately) and coughed up a solo homer to Matt Joyce, the first batter he faced. I really, really don’t want Hembree pitching on a team I root for, in any situation. The guy is a bum, plain and simple. However, it was still 6-3, so we couldn’t freak out yet.
After Joe Kelly pitched a clean eighth, Craig Kimbrel came on to close it down. Kimbrel has had some struggles with the long ball this year and again, he gave up a solo shot. Matt Olson took him yard out to left to open the ninth and the pit in my stomache grew. The bullpen is just a major issue and when Kimbrel isn’t helping, well I don’t know what we can do. Craig got through the inning and the Sox won 6-4, but that was closer than it needed to be. It’s great to see that we are done with Oakland for the year (barring a playoff matchup that won’t happen because the A’s are mediocre) because they owned us. They leave town as the only team with a winning record against Boston.
On to some good news though! The Sox still have not been swept and they picked up a win for Sale, a save for Kimbrel and dealt Cahill a loss. They’d move on to face off with the lowly Orioles in a four game series that started last night. More to come on that!