The Red Sox came into Saturday’s game red hot, looking for their second nine-game win streak of the season and to clinch yet anotehr series victory. They did get a really solid outing from Garrett Richards, even if the swing-and-miss stuff was still missing from his repertoire. But in a turn from what we’ve seen so often from this team over the most recent stretch of the season, the bullpen failed them. They turned to Yacksel Ríos and Darwinzon Hernandez to hold a two-run lead in the eighth, and then Matt Andriese to do the same in the twelfth. Neither inning went successfully for Boston, and that was the story of the night as the eight-game streak was snapped and the Red Sox lost in extras.
All eyes were on Garrett Richards heading into this Saturday evening matchup in Oakland, with the righty struggling mightily over his last few starts. After vocalizing concerns about the league’s crackdown on grip-enhancers used by pitchers and then subsequently getting hit around consistently for the back half of June, the veteran changed up his repertoire some over the final few innings of his last start against the Royals, and got better results. The big question was whether or not that was a viable change, or if he just happened to not give up any runs for a few innings against a bad team.
This start was a real test, however, going up against a likely playoff squad in the Athletics. As it turned out, Richards was back to his old tricks, leaning heavily on the fastball and slider rather than the new, slower curveball and revamped changeup. And sure enough, he got into some early trouble, walking the first batter he faced before hitting Elvis Andrus.
But from there, Richards settled in, got some breaks, and was able to get through a relatively solid outing. He got Matt Olson to hit a weak line drive over to the right side after putting those first two guys on, resulting in a massive double play that, in turn, allowed him to escape that first frame unscathed.
The second wouldn’t go quite as well, though he did get a couple of quick outs to start things off. It should also be noted that old friend Mitch Moreland was pulled from the game in this inning for his first at-bat for “non-baseball reasons.” Everyone here at OTM is hoping for the best for Moreland. As for Richards, he wasn’t able to close out the inning in order with Sean Murphy keeping things alive with a bloop single and bringing Seth Brown to the box. The A’s outfielder hit a rocket out to center field that was just out of the reach of Danny Santana, bringing home Oakland’s first run and putting Brown on third with a triple.
Richards did end up stranding the runner at third, and then was able to cruise through the next few outings. The righty gave up only a single in the third, and then just a walk in both the fourth and fifth innings.
Meanwhile, over on the other side, the Red Sox offense got off to a slow start going up against Cole Irvin. The lefty had Boston’s bats off-balance early on, getting them in order in the first before not allowing any runners to advance beyond first base in the following two innings. So it was still a 1-0 A’s lead heading into the fourth, when the Red Sox were the beneficiaries of some poor defense. With one out in the inning, Xander Bogaerts hit a fairly routine ground ball over to the right side, but Tony Kemp could not handle it and the Red Sox were in business with a runner on first thanks to the error.
Rafael Devers came up next and smacked the first pitch through the right side for a base hit to put two men on with one out, and more bad defense benefited the Red Sox. This time, Murphy tried to catch Devers sleeping with a back pick attempt at first base. The throw was short-hopped and found its way into the vast Oakland foul territory, allowing Bogaerts to come all the way around to score and put Devers over at third base. Hunter Renfroe followed it up with a deep fly ball out to center field, and the Red Sox suddenly had a 2-1 lead.
They’d get right back to work in the fifth, this time getting things started with a one-out walk from Kiké Hernández. He’d move on up to second base on a ground ball, and then J.D. Martinez stayed hot with a base hit into left field. Hernández easily came around to score, and the Red Sox had their lead extended to two.
For Richards, the cruising came to an end in the sixth with Cora trying to get one more inning out of his starter and give his bullpen a rest. Richards didn’t comply, giving up a leadoff single before Frank Schwindel, who came into the game for Moreland in that first inning, laced a double into the left-field corner. Both of those hits came on the first pitches of their respective at-bats, and the latter ended the day for Richards.
Now, with the A’s back to within a run, Hirokazu Sawamura came in for Boston looking to get out of the inning with a runner on second and nobody out. He did end up issuing a one-out walk, but the righty was perfect beyond that to keep the lead in hand heading into the seventh.
The top half of that inning did not start off well for Boston, who saw their first two batters strike out ahead of Hernández. But their leadoff man has been red-hot lately, and he continued the streak here. With Irvin still in the game, Hernández got a first-pitch changeup that just didn’t get down quite far enough, and he launched it way out over the left-field wall for a solo shot, putting the Red Sox back up by two in a 4-2 game.
Now it was just up to Boston’s bullpen, who has been so good this year, to protect this lead and give the team a ninth straight win. Josh Taylor did his job in the bottom half of the seventh, working around a pair of singles to get out of the inning without a run. The eighth wouldn’t go so smoothly.
With the Red Sox pen a little overworked of late, they turned to Yacksel Ríos in a two-run game in the eighth, and they paid the price. After a quick first out, Murphy once again got on base with a single, and then Brown did the rest. The outfielder put one high off the wall in right-center field, bringing Murphy home and cutting Boston’s lead down to one. Darwinzon Hernandez came in to try and put out the fire from there, but instead the runner would move up to third on a passed ball when Hernandez missed his target, and then Elvis Andrus brought him home with a base hit to tie this game up at four.
Neither offense was able to take the lead in the ninth, with the Red Sox getting a one-out walk but then watching Marwin Gonzalez quickly get cut down trying to steal second. So we headed into extras, where the Red Sox once again got caught stealing in the tenth, sending only two batters to the plate in the inning, and then went down in order in the eleventh. Thankfully, Brandon Workman was able to come in and toss a pair of scoreless innings — with Martinez throwing out the potential winning run at the plate to end the first of those frames — to push the game into the twelfth.
And this is where the game got a little crazy, as the Red Sox offense finally came through again in the top half. Christian Vázquez gave the team their first extra-inning hit with a one-out single to put men on the corners, and then Gonzalez and Hernández both poked weak singles through to give the Red Sox two runs and make it a 6-4 ballgame heading into the bottom of the inning.
All the Red Sox needed was one or zero runs from Matt Andriese. They didn’t get it. Oakland did get one soft-hit infield single to start off the inning, but then everything after that was hit hard. Brown continued a big game with an RBI base hit, and then old friend Jed Lowrie ripped a double to tie the game. There was still nobody out and now the winning run standing on third base, and Kemp finished things off. He got a ball deep enough out to center field to bring that run home, and the A’s walked it off.
The 7-6 loss snapped an eight-game win streak for the Red Sox and dropped their record down to 52-32. With the Rays also losing on Saturday, however, Boston’s lead in the division stays steady at 4.5 games.
Boston and Oakland now have a rubber match on the docket for Sunday afternoon, starting at 4:07 PM ET. Boston will have Nick Pivetta on the mound to take on James Kaprielian.