Sometimes the idea of an opener works. Sometimes it doesn’t. The Red Sox were riding the high of a Brennan Bernardino start followed up by six lockdown innings by Nick Pivetta in an outing that saw him strike a historic 13 batters out in relief, finished off by a great Chris Martin inning. The Athletics managed just one hit against Boston’s pitching staff. I would put that committee against mostly any rotation in baseball. Pivetta has found his footing as a reliever and making him start games at this juncture would be doing the staff - and Pivetta - a disservice. So, although the sequel is never as good as the original, when it came to tonight’s game in Oakland, it was hard not to feel good about Boston’s odds. Even with Joe Jacques getting his first Major League start. Even on a Rafael Devers night off due to a calf injury. Even with Connor Wong taking the night off in favor of Jorge Alfaro, who hasn’t quite found it at the plate. The bats, powered by Wong, Justin Turner, and Triston Casas last night, helped that feeling.
It wouldn’t exactly work that way in this game, and it appeared very early that last night and tonight, are, in fact, two separate nights. Weird!
There appeared to be some glimmering light in the very first inning, when Jacques recovered from a Tony Kemp leadoff triple and a bobbled pitch by Alfaro when Kemp dove a bit too much out of the baseline. The call — perhaps rightfully — drew the ire of Mark Kotsay, who was very audible due to the low attendance in Oakland. Kotsay was unceremoniously tossed from the game. Video below if you want to hear a guy cussing someone out in front of a minor league-sized crowd.
It turns out, the Athletics did not need that run, after all; they’d be just fine without it. After Ryan Noda, himself coming off an ejection last night, had a clutch defensive play to strand two Sox runners in the top of second inning, he launched a home run into the empty upper deck against Jacques. Two batters later, J.J. Bleday also went yard, and all of a sudden, the score was 3-0, Athletics. Justin Turner, playing third tonight, had a lot of weird balls go his way, and one skipped right by him and he got charged with an error.
So, in came Chris Murphy, who was much more sound than Jacques. He did get into some early trouble, but ended up pitching five scoreless, accumulating six strikeouts and yielding just two walks. Not bad for a rookie lefty facing guys that destroyed the first lefty they faced in this game! Joely Rodriguez and Richard Bleier, who’s back from a shoulder injury, blanked the Athletics in their respective innings, as well.
Unfortunately for Boston, even behind Murphy’s strong performance, they just could not get anything going offensively, as Luis Medina, the 24-year-old rookie who came into the game with an ERA north of (6.39) looked every bit the touted prospect Oakland holds him as, even if he was facing a lineup of some platoon players. Masataka Yoshida was about the only batter who had an answer for Medina, recording two doubles on the night. Medina’s outing also saw Justin Turner extend his hit streak to 14 games on this nice single. Those three hits were 60% of the five hits the Sox mustered on the night.
I wish I had more to show you, but the Red Sox just could not get anything going offensively. They were hitless with runners in scoring position, drew just one walk in the game (by way of Triston Casas with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning), and defensively, they looked pretty awful. There were passed balls, and in addition to Justin Turner’s error I detailed before, he also had a throwing error, as did Yu Chang. You cannot hit that badly and field that badly and expect to win a baseball game, not even against the Oakland Athletics. The game lasted just 2 hours and 20 minutes, which is good, because it was too painstaking to manage much longer.
The Red Sox seemed like they let the high of last night’s shutout get to them, convinced themselves that another opener means they could waltz into another win against the worst team in baseball, and that mindset likely cost them today. But that’s baseball, and that’s why they play 162 games. The bats have been potent in the last couple of weeks, so they were due for a shutout, and it’s a shame it came in a game where the pitching staff was as dependable as they were for 23 of the 27 outs. It’s also a shame it came on a day that every single other team in the AL East - AND the Astros - all lost. The series finale is tomorrow at 3:30 PM, 12:30 Pacific Time, so let’s hope the Red Sox don’t beat themselves up too badly for the sloppy play tonight instead of sleeping on it and just playing better tomorrow.
Chris Murphy: 4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 6 K
Richard Bleier: 1 IP, 2 BB, 1 K
Masataka Yoshida: 2-4, 2 2B
Justin Turner: 1-4, K, 2 E
Joe Jacques: 1.1 IP, 3 ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 1 K
Christian Arroyo: 0-3, 2 K
Honorary fourth due to strikeout - Yu Chang: 0-2, 1 K, 1 E
Play of the Game
If I had to pick a Red Sox play, it would be Yoshida’s early double to start what seemed like a promising inning, but the team just didn’t show up. Rightfully, FanGraphs has the two home runs in the second inning Oakland hit off of Joe Jacques both ranked higher than any Red Sox play, and for good reason.
Who was the Red Sox’s Player of the Game in their 3-0 loss to the A’s on 7/18/2023?
This poll is closed
The thousands of empty Oakland seats