Saturday, May 3, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 6, Athletics 3
By Tony Lee
BOSTON -- After dropping the finale of their series in Toronto and then losing two of three to Tampa Bay, the Boston Red Sox appeared a bit wounded entering a three-game series against Oakland. Given the Athletics' marvelous start, it figured to be an uphill battle.
Two games into the set and it has been all Boston, as the Sox followed up a 7-1 win in the opener Friday with a 6-3 triumph behind Jon Lester's career-high 15 strikeouts in eight dominant innings.
There was an extremely ugly ninth inning that saw the A's score three times on three hits and two Red Sox throwing errors, but otherwise everything went right for the hometown nine. Lester allowed only one hit, a single in the third inning. Jonny Gomes hit a grand slam. David Ortiz and David Ross had solo shots. Nobody was hurt. The Bruins were triumphant a few miles away, and 37,042 at Fenway Park were well aware of it.
Here is what we saw along the way:
A tone-setter: Lester threw nine pitches in the first inning, eight of which were strikes. It laid the foundation for a stellar performance against the team that entered with the best road offense in the American League. He fanned at least one batter in all but one inning and struck out the side twice.
Lester endured a rocky outing two starts ago against New York and gave up a season-high four earned runs his last time out. While there were no concerns with the big lefty, the Sox had to appreciate the sight of him flat-out dominating an opponent once again.
Another tone-setter: After Lester's nine-pitch first, Dustin Pedroia saw seven pitches to begin the bottom half, twice running out balls that ended up being barely foul in what amounted to an at-bat of about five minutes. That set the stage for Tommy Milone's afternoon, as the A's southpaw quickly loaded the bases before Gomes' slam and finished with six runs allowed in four frames.
In a matchup of southpaws on a Saturday afternoon, it was a complete mismatch.
Dustin's deeds: Pedroia also doubled in the second and has reached base 35 times in 17 games since his short layoff to deal with a wrist ailment last month.
Two days, two grand slams: A day after Pedroia went deep with the bases full, it was Gomes' turn. He cranked the first pitch he saw from Milone into the Monster seats to make it 4-0 in the first.
Boston had scored just five runs in the first inning all season before one mighty swing from Gomes nearly doubled that total. It was the fifth career grand slam for Gomes.
Milestones galore: Ortiz is at the stage of his career where almost every time he does something, it is worth noting where it ranks on all-time lists. With his blast beyond the bullpens in right in the third inning, Ortiz recorded his 379th home run with the Red Sox, tying him with Dwight Evans for fourth in franchise history. Jim Rice is next at 382.
Ortiz is one home run shy of tying Andre Dawson and Jason Giambi for 40th on the all-time list.
Ortiz needs to play two more games to reach 2,000 for his career.
Also, as pointed out by Red Sox stat guru Jon Shestakofsky, Ortiz now has six career homers on 0-2 pitches.
Web gems: Boston has played some poor defense behind Lester this year. They didn't need to do much with the number of strikeouts he recorded, but when given the chance to make a play, they did. Gomes had a very nice running catch right at the line in left to end the fourth inning, and Grady Sizemore made a sparkling grab in left-center to rob old pal Jed Lowrie of a hit in the seventh.
The one negative: Oakland certainly acted like a team that was just biding its time until Lester was removed, for the A's treated Chris Capuano rather rudely in the ninth. Capuano didn't have it, and after three hits and an error gave the A's two runs and put the tying run on deck, Red Sox manager John Farrell removed the lefty in favor of closer Koji Uehara in the middle of an at-bat against Yoenis Cespedes.
Another throwing error helped Oakland score a third run and bring the tying run to the plate before Uehara struck out Alberto Callaspo and got Brandon Moss to fly to right to end it. Farrell never wanted to use Uehara after such a one-sided affair for the first eight frames. Maybe later in the season he will give Lester a chance to bump the pitch count up into the 120s and finish what he started.
Up next: Sunday's series finale pits John Lackey (4-2, 3.83 ERA) versus rising A's righty Sonny Gray (4-1, 1.76) in a 1:35 p.m. matchup.