After a complete and convincing win on Tuesday, the Red Sox had a chance to clinch a series victory and keep the possibility of a sweep alive on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Doug Fister didn’t look like the guy we’ve seen over the last six weeks, and the Red Sox offense couldn’t pick him up. On the one hand, it’s easy to say this is Fister turning back into himself after a lucky run of baseball, but I find it hard to give up so easily on him after one start.
As for the offense, this felt like a game in which they could have done so much more. Jharel Cotton is a young pitcher who has real talent, but one who also has major command problems and has been hit around more often than not. It’s not as if the Red Sox didn’t have trouble hitting him, either, as they made good contact and had some real scoring chances. They just couldn’t come through. All in all, it was a much more frustrating game than the final score may indicate.
It was fairly clear from the beginning that Fister didn’t have it in this game. Of course, he’s had first-inning struggles in most of his outings this year — even his good ones — but this one seemed worse. He was missing his spot consistently, he was unable to put anyone away, and he was hit hard fairly often. He started things off by allowing a well-hit single, and after getting a strikeout he gave up a hard hit ball into the corner from old friend Jed Lowrie. The A’s infielder legged out a triple on the ball and gave Oakland an early 1-0 lead. John Farrell opted to bring the infield in after this, and it proved to be a costly, aggressive decision. Khris Davis hit a pop up to the very start of the outfield grass, but Dustin Pedroia couldn’t reach it in time. It fell in and Lowrie scored Oakland’s second run. As it turned out, it wouldn’t matter too much as Matt Olson came up next and the A’s rookie took a hanging curveball into the Red Sox bullpen. Oakland left the first inning with a 4-0 lead.
Fister came back out for the second inning and, much like his previous starts, he looked much better. He shut Oakland down for a quick 1-2-3 inning and appeared to be back on track. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last long. There was more hard contact in the third inning, with Matt Joyce starting things off with a line drive single and Lowrie following it up with an RBI double off the Monster. After a grounder moved Lowrie over to third, the Red Sox intentionally walked Olson to set up a potential double play. Fister did get a ground ball to Pedroia in the next at bat, but instead of going to second base he tried to tag Olson before going to first, and Olson avoided the tag long enough to prevent the double play. That gave Oakland six runs in the blink of an eye.
Fister would come back out for the fourth and once again he put together a 1-2-3 inning. Despite the easy fourth, with his pitch count up and over 80 and the middle of the order coming up for the fifth, Farrell decided to pull his starter. It was certainly a rough outing for Fister, as he allowed six runs in four innings on six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Despite how rough it was, it’s too early to say this is him falling back to Earth. No one really expected him to be an ace the rest of the way, but he’s certainly earned more than one bad start with his recent run before we totally lose faith in him.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense got plenty going against Athletics starter Jharel Cotton, but they couldn’t come through with the killer hit. In the first inning, after they went down 4-1 early on, it seemed like they had a chance to do some real damage. Pedroia reached on a one-out infield single, and an Andrew Benintendi double moved him over to third and put two in scoring position with just one out. The Red Sox would get one run on an RBI groundout from Mookie Betts, but that’s all they’d get.
After a quick second inning, the Red Sox once again looked poised to make a game out of this in the third, when they entered the inning trailing 6-1. After a quick first out, Xander Bogaerts and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles and then Benintendi hit a double to drive in one and put two more in scoring position for Betts. This time, he drew a walk to give Mitch Moreland a big bases loaded situation down by four and just one out. He had the worst possible outcome, though, and hit into an inning-ending double play.
The score would remain 6-2 until the top of the fifth, when Jackie Bradley led things off with a bang. He got a changeup that stayed up in the zone and launched it into the bullpen to cut Oakland’s lead down to three. Bogaerts would follow that up with a walk, but a strikeout and a double play ended the inning quickly after that. They’d have yet another chance in the seventh when they put two on with two outs for Benintendi, who had already had a couple big swings in this game. He couldn’t pull through, though, and grounded out to end the inning.
Out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, Fernando Abad was the first to get the call. The lefty got the A’s in an easy 1-2-3 inning in the fifth before coming back out for the sixth and hitting Olson to lead things off. He was then pulled for Heath Hembree, who would get a quick groundout before allowing an RBI double to Bruce Maxwell and give Oakland their seventh run of the game. It was all they’d get off Hembree, and Matt Barnes would get the seventh and toss a scoreless frame. The eighth belonged to Blaine Boyer, who tossed a 1-2-3 inning of his own. He’d come back for a scoreless ninth as well.
So, it was a tough loss for the Red Sox and one that was made even tougher by the fact that the Yankees beat the Rays earlier in the day. Just like that, the lead in the American League East is back to three. Boston will have a chance to back into the win column and take the series on Thursday afternoon with Drew Pomeranz on the mound.