The Red Sox just cannot beat this Oakland A’s team for whatever reason. It seems like every year there is one team that inexplicably has the Red Sox’ number, and this season it appears that team is going to be Oakland. The Red Sox, much like on Monday, were always just one step behind the A’s and couldn’t put together a big enough rally to take over the lead. Eduardo Rodriguez dug the team in an early hole, but to his credit he settled down and kept it a game when it seemed as if the A’s could put this one away early. The offense did have some nice swings, but they’re getting bad sequencing luck while also failing to get out of their own way. Not a great combination. Add all of that in with a bullpen that has been worked a ton in recent days and you have a recipe for a frustrating day.
The first third of this game really felt like it was going to be defined by the start from Rodriguez. It was the worst parts of the young lefty all in wrapped into one, as he wasn’t pitching confidently and he was throwing an awful lot of fastballs. Over the first couple of innings, efficiency was already becoming a major problem less because he couldn’t find the zone and more because he was failing to finish off his opponents when he got to two strikes. Whether due to poor performance or inefficiency, it felt like four innings may be the maximum expectation for Rodriguez. He did end up settling down, but that wouldn’t come until later.
When we first started — nearly two hours after the scheduled first pitch time due to thunderstorms — the A’s were jumping on Rodriguez early and started things off with back-to-back singles. The game had just started, but in the blink of an eye the young lefty was already on the bump with a couple runners on base. He came back to get a couple of quick outs, and then got Matt Chapman down to two strikes as he looked to escape the early jam. Instead, he allowed a line drive to deep right field that just barely made it over a fully-extended Mookie Betts and the A’s had a two-run double on their hands.
That was all they’d get there, but they got back on the board in the second as well. This was a bit of a bittersweet run, as it came from a home run off the bat of Stephen Piscotty. For those who don’t know, the A’s outfielder had missed some time recently following the passing of his mother. This was his first at bat back from bereavement, and he took a cutter down and in and sent it into the Monster Seats to put his team up 3-0.
Rodriguez would give up another hit in that inning and threw a ton of pitches to that point, but things really got better for the lefty after the second. He gave up a leadoff single in the third, but a double play later in the inning would wipe that out. The fourth also featured just one baserunner on a hit by pitch, and the fifth was a 1-2-3 frame for the lefty. Though he was cruising, the early-game struggles held him back and he was done after those five innings. Still, it was much better that it looked like it’d be. In the end, Rodriguez tossed five innings allowing those three early runs on six hits and four strikeouts while not issuing a walk.
Meanwhile, the offense couldn’t really mount a true comeback against A’s starter Daniel Mengden and his mustache straight out of the early 1900’s. They had some chances but it never really seemed like they could mount anything of real substance, and a big part of that was the bottom of the lineup once again failing to provide very much against the opponent’s starter.
The frustrations did get started with the top of the order, though, and they started right in the first inning. It looked as if Boston would have a chance when Andrew Benintendi got a one-out single and moved to second on a two-out single from J.D. Martinez. That brought up Xander Bogaerts, who hit a weak ground ball to third base that would have been an infield single to load the bases. I say “would have” because, well, the baserunning struck again. Benintendi, for whatever reason, aggressively rounded third base on the play and Chapman (the A’s third baseman) never made the throw. Instead, he turned to Benintendi and eventually got him in an inning-ending rundown. It was, frankly, an inexcusable mistake.
They’d follow that up by wasting a leadoff double in the second before finally getting on the board in the fourth. There, Martinez reached on a Chapman error to lead things off, and he moved over to third on a Bogaerts single. Mitch Moreland then knocked in one on a fielder’s choice, but it wasn’t the type of big hit they needed for a sustained rally. They’d certainly take the run to cut the deficit to two, but it felt like it could have been a bigger inning as Moreland was stranded at first.
Boston would then come right back out in the fifth and get another back as they continued to chip away at this lead. This time things started off with a couple of quick outs before Benintendi came to the plate and made up for his baserunning mistake. Mengden threw him a fastball down and in that caught too much of the plate, and Benintendi turned it around, sending it over 400 feet out to right field into the bleachers beyond the bullpen. It was crushed, is what I’m saying.
So, now it was a one-run game heading into the sixth, and Steven Wright made his first post-suspension appearance there. He did walk a batter, but he got out of a scoreless inning after that. In the bottom half, Moreland had his second leadoff double of the game, but for the second time of the night he was stranded there.
Neither team did anything in the seventh, and Wright came out for a third inning of work in the eighth. After getting a quick first out, Oakland got back-to-back singles and that was the end of Wright’s night. Bobby Poyner — just called up today when Carson Smith hit the disabled list — entered the game with two on in a one-run game. Poyner did his job to retire the left-handed Matt Olson, but then was kept in against the right-handed Mark Canha. That proved to be a mistake, as he allowed a two-run double to the A’s outfielder and all of a sudden Oakland had a three-run lead back.
So, we headed to the bottom ninth with the same three-run lead in tact and A’s closer Blake Treinen heading to the mound. Things got off to a promising start when Rafael Devers struck out, but reached when the pitch got into the netting. Brock Holt, pinch hitting for Christian Vazquez, followed that up with a double to put two in scoring position for the top of the lineup with nobody out. Betts did knock in a run, but it came on a ground out to put a runner on second with one down and a two-run deficit. Benintendi followed that up with a fly out, leaving it all up to Hanley Ramirez. He couldn’t get it done, hitting a ground ball to shortstop to end the game and the rally.
The Red Sox will look to avoid a bad sweep to start off a period with a lot of home games on Wednesday night. The good news is that they will have Chris Sale on the mound, and he’ll be taking on Trevor Cahill. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.