After scoring 27 runs in the first two games of the series, Sunday’s finale was a very different story for the Red Sox indeed. Kendall Graveman proved quite the challenge for the Boston lineup, and ultimately, one they would never actually overcome.
There’s something to be said for bad luck and a generous strike zone in Boston’s failures to score runs today—both were certainly a factor. Give Graveman credit, though, he was capable of missing bats, and did a good bit of that in the early innings. When he was giving up contact, it was often loud, but the Red Sox were hitting them straight at Athletics fielders, which has never proven the most effective of tactics.
The most egregious example of this would come during Boston’s best opportunity to take the lead in the fourth. David Ortiz and Mookie Betts would reach base to start the inning. Hanley would come up just a bit short on a long fly ball to center, and Sandy Leon would seemingly ground out to second, but a smart call from John Farrell to review a neighborhood play gave the Red Sox a free baserunner and a bases loaded situation, bringing Brock Holt to the plate. For the second straight at bat, Brock Holt stung the ball, but hit it right at Marcus Semien, leaving all three men on base when Yoan Moncada grounded out to end the inning.
From there, though, Graveman’s scoreless fifth and sixth came mostly without any such drama. He wound up in trouble again in the seventh, putting two men on base with one out, but Ryan Dull came in to get a couple easy fly balls to end the threat.
Graveman, though, was not the center of attention on the mound. That would be Eduardo Rodriguez. Coming off an injury and an ugly return game, Rodriguez didn’t look to be quite at his best in the first, walking Danny Valencia and occasionally missing the zone by more than you might like. But the lefty struck out Khris Davis to end the inning, and as the game went on, he only got stronger. Rodriguez worked around an error from Yoan Moncada in the second, and got the Athletics 1-2-3 with ease in the third. By the time he got Chad Pinder out to end the fifth, the zero in the hits column was becoming awfully noticeable.
That story would stay alive through the sixth and seventh innings, even as Rodriguez’ pitch count started to rise into dangerous territories, hitting 100 at the end of seven. With six outs to go even if the Red Sox scored some runs for him, it seemed unlikely Rodriguez could muscle through on his own.
But, with the first two at-bats in the eighth, Rodriguez started to bring the possibility of a solo no-no back to life. Eibner and Pinder both swung early, and Moncada threw both men out easily, with just three pitches needed to get Rodriguez his outs. After a slightly longer at bat, it looked for all the world like Rodriguez was headed to the ninth when he stuck his foot out behind him to knock down a come-backer, searched briefly for the ball, then fired to first where the out was called. But replay told a different story. Half-a-second of searching and half-a-step from Semien was all it took to bring Rodriguez’ bid for history to an end.
As it happened, though, the Red Sox didn’t score any runs for him anyways. The Sox went in order in the ninth, and John Farrell turned to Craig Kimbrel for the ninth. It was a move designed to get the Sox to the plate at least one more time for sure, but it didn’t turn out that way at all. Kimbrel walked Danny Valencia to start the frame, and quickly gave up the walk-off on a double to left, with Brock Holt bobbling the ball off the wall to let Valencia score all the way from first.
When you score 27 runs and allow 5, coming away with just two runs in three is really not all that impressive. Having it come like this, with the no-hitter lost and the walkoff surrendered in such short order just makes it that much more of a gut punch. The Sox are now five games below their expected win-loss record based on run differential, and a good bit of that is because of series like this. All told, it’s hard to look at these last few days as anything but a success—it’s a west coast trip, the Sox gained ground, and Eduardo Rodriguez pitching masterfully is by far the single most important event of the weekend—but man does this outcome ever suck.