It was a familiar story Saturday afternoon. The Red Sox got a fantastic start from the man on the mound, but couldn't give him any semblance of support, leading to a 2-1 loss in extra innings.
At this point, the Red Sox have to be actively trying not to win games. It's the only way to explain some of these results. Athletics starter Jesse Chavez was just not very good today. 11 of his 17 first-inning pitches were outside the zone. But after walking Brock Holt on five pitches, Dustin Pedroia responded by fouling off a fastball right down the middle, swinging at a changeup he wasn't ever going to do anything with, and then grounding into a double play with another fastball just asking to get smacked into center. Chavez followed that up with another five-pitch walk to David Ortiz, but Mike Napoli couldn't even get a hanging 1-0 changeup in the air, ending the inning on another ground out.
That inning was kind of the story of the game for Boston's offense. A very healthy number of walks wasted by a complete inability to hit baseballs. What little hard contact they did have ended up in gloves early on, leaving them hitless until the sixth, when Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia picked up back-to-back line drive leadoff singles. That brought David Ortiz to the plate with a big opportunity to get the Red Sox on the board.
He grounded into a double play. On a hanging 2-1 curve. See what I mean when I said the first inning was kind of the story of the game?
Finally, in the eighth, the Red Sox got lucky. Two more line drive singles, this time with neither of the two ground balls in the innings resulting in double plays, left the Red Sox with runners on first and third. Up came Mike Napoli. Was it finally time for the Red Sox to get a hit with a runner in scoring position?
No. Mike Napoli flew out to right field. But not before Luke Gregerson bounced a curveball in front of the plate, letting Dustin Pedroia come in to score with an impressive bit of baserunning as he responded immediately to the awkward reaction of Stephen Vogt behind the plate.
The thing is, that tied the game! The Red Sox had been letting hittable pitches go by, and walks go to waste, but because Rubby De La Rosa was once again at his best. He's had a couple of amazing games against teams that don't necessarily have the best lineups, but the Athletics have the game's best offense, and De La Rosa didn't blink.
PITCHf/x credits De La Rosa with some seven "fastballs" today--not two-seamers or four-seamers, just "fastballs." That's the kind of ambiguity that shows up when you're throwing two-seam fastballs in the low 90s and changeups in the upper 80s. Today, both his changeup and his harder offerings worked. He sat in the mid-upper 90s with a four-seam fastball that actually accounted for a few of his seven strikeouts, and if his changeup wasn't producing quite as many whiffs as usual, it was still the pitch that did the most damage. There was the one misplaced one that did some damage. Usually that's in the form of a homer; today it was good for a triple that turned into the only Oakland run against him in seven innings of work on a sacrifice fly.
Rubby's performance kept the Red Sox alive despite their terrible performance at the plate, but only for one extra inning. Edward Mujica entered the game in the tenth and walked the first batter he faced. The only out he recorded was on a sacrifice bunt that put Alberto Callaspo into scoring position, and while the Red Sox turned to Koji Uehara, there closer could not provide the perfection they needed. Coco Crisp lined a flat splitter into right field, and the Red Sox lost their third straight game in Oakland as Callaspo came in to score.