Two runs or less was good for a series sweep against the Twins, but the Red Sox were dealt a dose of harsh reality Thursday night by an Athletics team which proved up to the task of actually producing a halfway decent number of runs.
It's rare that you can come out of a series sweep without much expectation to win your next game, but that was pretty much the situation the Red Sox faced tonight. Scoring just five runs in those three games meant that just about the entirety of that sweep could be credited to the pitching staff. And while Brandon Workman, Jon Lester, and John Lackey certainly did a fine job, it was Jake Peavy taking the mound tonight.
The hope was that, coming off arguably his best start of the year, we'd be seeing a the old Jake Peavy on the mound tonight, rather than the one that has been mediocre-at-best in 2014. That hope would be dashed in a hurry. While he managed to work around a pair of leadoff baserunners in the first, it was clear this was his usual wild self. When he tried to nibble, he missed. When he tried to throw strikes, they were centered conveniently over the plate.
It was a mess that could have led to worse results than it did. After a lucky line drive double play got him out of that first, he managed to survive another pair of leadoff baserunners in the second allowing just the one run. And when he finally managed to avoid early baserunners in the third, that's when we got our obligatory Jake Peavy home run--a meatball deposited over the wall in left center by Yoenis Cespedes. And while the Athletics waited until after their first out in the fourth to get their baserunner--Jed Lowrie on a double--they got him home all the same when Stephen Vogt slapped a single into center field. The three-inning picket fence had been erected, leaving the Sox behind by three runs--an insurmountable deficit if the series against Minnesota was any indication.
As it happened, it was just that, but that did not always appear to be the case. The Red Sox did get a burst of offense from Dustin Pedroia, who managed to hook an outside changeup with enough force to clear the wall in left--a rare-but-encouraging sign of power from the second baseman that gave the Red Sox their two runs, bringing them just one shy of a tie.
With one out in the seventh, however, Peavy allowed a walk to his last baserunner of the game, and Chris Capuano could not keep the run from scoring. The Red Sox again found themselves down by two, but really it wouldn't matter. Rather than proving a spark for the rest of the offense, Pedroia was simply the lone light in a dark lineup. The next Boston baserunner would come when Pedroia doubled with one out in the ninth, and with neither Mike Napoli nor A.J. Pierzynski up to the task of continuing the rally, that last flicker of hope was left stranded at second base.
Two runs were enough to win each and every game against the Twins. But more often that not, two is too little.