To quote myself from before today's game: "if we win this one, it's gotta be some kinda sign, right?"
Well, there you have it. After a four-game losing streak and a couple of very messy wins, the Red Sox took the last game of the series in surprisingly convincing fashion, sweeping the A's out of Boston with a 6-3 victory.
To be certain, it wasn't clean all around. John Lackey was in many ways very shaky in his return. Even ignoring the even strikeout and walk totals (two a piece), there's the three hit batters and the rather long home run he gave up to Kevin Kouzmanoff. But, at the end of the day (if not five games from now) it's the score that counts, and Lackey did hold an Athletics team that had battered Clay Buchholz just two days ago to a respectable three earned runs in 5.2 innings.
And that, surprisingly enough, was enough for the Red Sox. That's no knock against the Sox' offense, mind you, because they were facing Brett Anderson. In six career games against the Sox, Anderson had allowed a total of nine runs, throwing 39 innings in the process. That's an average of 1.5 runs in 6.5 innings--hardly what you're looking for from one of the best offensive teams during the span of said hurler's career.
This time, though, things were different. After Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis stranded Dustin Pedroia on base in the first inning, the middle of the Sox' order went to work. David Ortiz laced the first of his three hits on the day to left on the first pitch of the second, and on the fifth Jed Lowrie sent a line drive up the middle. With two men on, Carl Crawford stepped up to the plate, and was greeted with one of the more beautiful pitches known to batters: a middle-middle slider. As often is the case with such pitches in Fenway, this one ended up in the Red Sox' bullpen, giving the Sox the 3-0 lead.
The A's fought back in the fourth, getting on the board thanks to Kevin Kouzmanoff's aforementioned homer, and then scoring again in the fifth after Lackey plunked Kurt Suzuki, who then stole second and scored on Daric Barton's single. All their hard work would quickly be undone, however, when with Jarrod Saltalamacchia on second, Adrian Gonzalez went opposite field with his twelfth homer of the season, leaving the Red Sox on top 5-2.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the game was not that the Sox scored off of Brett Anderson, but that their hollow shell of a bullpen not only held the A's off for 10 outs, but how cleanly they did so. After Matt Albers allowed an inherited run to score in relief of John Lackey in the sixth, the Sox used a combination of Albers, Tommy Hottovy, Dan Wheeler, and Daniel Bard to close out the game in impressive fashion. In fact, after a couple of baserunners reached in the seventh (Hottovy once again retired David DeJesus to end the threat), Wheeler and Bard needed a combined 15 pitches to finish their two innings.
The Sox will have an off-day to savor this series sweep, rest their bullpen, and get everything in order for their next series. They're headed to the Bronx, ready to take on the Yankees in a series for control of the AL East lead.