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Red Sox 7, Athletics 6: Sox overcome late meltdown, avoid sweep

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The Red Sox had the game in the bag, gave it away, but managed to come away winners in extra innings all-the-same.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox finally scored some runs, but then almost managed to find their way to a loss all the same before David Ortiz came to the rescue in the tenth inning, saving them from a sweep at the hand of the Athletics.

It was the long ball that carried the day for the Red Sox in the end, but in the first it was a nickle-and-dime approach that put the Red Sox ahead. Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Napoli went station-to-station on a pair of singles and a walk, loading the bases with two outs for Jonny Gomes. He didn't hit the ball all that hard, but managed to reach out and dump Tommy Milone's 3-2 fastball into center field for a base hit, plating both Holt and Pedroia.

Still, it didn't take long for the Red Sox to get their power swings going. David Ross of all people was the first to produce a homer off the soft-tossing Milone, jumping on the first pitch of the second inning and hitting a fly ball to left-center that just kept carrying up and over the wall--a theme we'll be revisiting later in the game. The homer put the Red Sox ahead 3-0 at the time, but the Athletics would quickly return fire, scoring their first run of the game on an Alberto Callaspo double which brought home Derek Norris, who had reached base earlier in the inning on an error.

If a David Ross homer was hardly expected, the Red Sox would take "surprising offense" to entirely new heights in the third. Ross was once again at the plate, but this time took no part in the play. With Jonathan Herrera at first and Mike Napoli at third, Milone managed to catch Herrera jumping early. As the Athletics tried to complete the rundown, however, Napoli made his break, making an awkward half-slide, half-dive around Derrek Norris to avoid the tag and score on a steal of home.

The Red Sox' lead would only get bigger in the fifth, with Mike Napoli getting in on the homer act with a solo shot to right. Two innings later, Jonathan Herrera brought Jonny Gomes home by smacking a triple into the right field corner, putting the Red Sox in what seemed like a commanding 6-1 lead.

To that point, thanks to a couple of double plays, the Athletics had only really troubled Jon Lester in the second, when they scored their one unearned run off the southpaw. In the eighth, however, Lester managed to put away the first two batters he faced, but just could not get the third. Instead, he proceeded to hit Craig Gentry and walk Jed Lowrie before being pulled from the game. Ground ball expert Burke Badenhop came in, and while he arguably did his job by getting three straight ground balls, each one found its way into the outfield. The A's rally was good for three runs, leaving them just two down headed to the ninth.

Still, any lead is usually enough for Koji Uehara. Tonight, though? Not at all the case. First Stephen Vogt, then John Jaso took Uehara's usually unhittable splitter and hooked it over the wall in right field, erasing those last two runs in Boston's lead. To Koji's credit, neither pitch was exactly a hanger, but both men got ahold of them all the same, forcing the Red Sox into extra innings once more.

There, however, the Red Sox proved unbroken by the abrupt collapse in the eighth and ninth innings. Or at least David Ortiz did. The sixth pitch of the inning from Fernando Abad was a 1-2 knuckle curve. Like Koji Uehara's splitters, Abad managed to get the ball down. He even managed to keep it outside against Ortiz. But like Uehara, Abad got hit all the same. Ortiz got the ball up in the air to left center, and like David Ross' shot in the early stages of the game, it just kept carrying, back and over the wall to give the Red Sox the 7-6 lead.

Despite having allowed two homers in the ninth, it was Koji Uehara who returned to handle the tenth. This time, however, the small lead was plenty. Taking no prisoners, Uehara induced a pop-up from Yoenis Cespedes, struck out Josh Donaldson, and then induced a ground ball from the pinch hitting Sean Doolittle--yes, the relief pitcher Sean Doolittle--to end the game and save the Red Sox from what would have been a truly devastating loss and sweep.