The Oakland Athletics have to be getting tired of seeing these Boston Red Sox.
Earlier in the year, it was the Athletics who bore the brunt of the most ridiculous offensive stretch of the season from baseball’s best lineup. The Sox put up 40 runs on the A’s in Fenway Park over the span of just three games. With Boston having since fallen from historic heights to a more humble league-leading pace and facing a 10 p.m. start time, Oakland had to think Friday night would be different.
It’s possible there are worlds where it would have been, too. Specifically worlds in which starting pitcher Andrew Triggs does not leave the game after the first with a back injury. But that is not the world we live in. In our world, Triggs gives up an unearned run in the first, the bullpen is given eight innings to handle, and the Red Sox blow the game wide, wide open in the fifth and sixth.
The Athletics, give them credit, managed to hang tough for the first half of the game. The Sox grabbed an unearned run off of Triggs in the first as Marcus Semien bounced a throw past Danny Valencia. Then, in the third, they picked up another with productive outs cashing in on a second defensive gaffe, this time from Brett Eibner misplaying a Dustin Pedroia line drive into two bases.
That lead would not last through the bottom of the fourth, as David Price got in trouble early on, letting the first two batters reach base. He nearly escaped with just the one run in, but Stephen Vogt cleaned out a reasonably well-buried 0-2 changeup for a double down the right field line, bringing home the second run to make it a 2-2 tie.
With Price on the mound and the Athletics having to turn to their bullpen so early, it was simply not an impressive position to be in. Perhaps feeling that themselves, the Red Sox set about righting things in a hurry. While Zach Neal was able to get a couple quick outs against Bradley and Pedroia, but Xander Bogaerts doubled into left, and that set things moving in a big way. David Ortiz drove Bogaerts in with a single up the middle to retake the ead, then moved to third as Mookie Betts made it three straight hits. A double down the left field line from Hanley Ramirez plated both men to more than make up for Oakland’s brief comeback, and Travis Shaw made it a four-run lead with a double of his own against the newly-entered Daniel Coulombe before Brock Holt finally grounded out to end the inning.
The fifth, though, was just the preview. The Sox started the sixth right where they left off. Three straight base hits from the Red Sox loaded the bases right off the bat. And while Sox fans still might be traumatized by the team’s inability to make good on these situations, they’ve actually been turning them into some runs of late. Today was no different. Xander Bogaerts drew a walk to keep things moving, and David Ortiz produced a sacrifice fly to make it 8-2 for the Red Sox. Even so, it was only once the bases were unloaded that they really went to town, with Hanley delivering another RBI knock, bringing Travis Shaw to the plate.
This was a pretty important day for Shaw. After all, today was the day Yoan Moncada got the call to the majors. And while Moncada didn’t get the start today, the writing was kind of on the wall for the slumping Shaw. But so long as he had at bats, Shaw was going to use them. He’d already put up the big double in the fifth, but here hemade the message clear that we wasn’t going quietly, going very deep to right, bringing three in, and making it a 12-run night for the Red Sox.
Of course, that still left them with work to do just to get to their season average against Oakland. But they managed that, too, with Shaw again involved. Yoan Moncada would make his major league debut as a substitute for Hanley Ramirez, getting his first plate appearance in the eighth and drawing a walk watching five straight pitches. Shaw doubled to deep right behind him, with Moncada making it all the way in from first even though he had to hold up to make sure Eibner didn’t make the catch. Shaw came in on a wild pitch, and then later Jackie Bradley Jr. would bring home Brock Holt wih a sacrifice fly to make it 15 runs for the Red Sox.
On the mound, the Sox didn’t need Price to be, well, much of anything. And he wasn’t quite at his best. If the strike zone were a little less friendly, he may have even ended up a bit embattled in this one. But as it was, even a slightly off Price was more than enough to hold the Athletics in check. The two-run fourth was the only damage they managed off him.
That left two innings for the bullpen, which were actually more interesting than you might expect in a game like this. Joe Kelly showed us his best and worst aspects, getting some high-90s fastballs blasted—one for a hit, the other for a screaming liner snared by Marco Hernandez at second--but also managing a pair of strikeouts featuring some sharp, well-placed curveballs. With the eighth out of the way, Robby Scott made his debut in the ninth, and actually looked very good indeed. He throws in the mid-to-high 80’s, but that didn’t stop him from picking up five swinging strikes in his first inning of work. Only an infield single (the result of an overzealous bit of defense from Yoan Moncada cutting in front of Deven Marrero) forcing him to pitch a fourth at bat. Some small beacon of hope for the ailing bullpen, perhaps.
But the bullpen was kind of the last thing on anyone’s mind tonight. Another game agains Oakland, and somehow the Sox outdid their previous efforts. 17 hits, 16 runs (Hernandez scored one more in the ninth), and one game gained on the Blue Jays. A performance worth staying up for.