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Sunday, May 4, 2014
Rapid Reaction: A's 3, Red Sox 2

By Tony Lee

BOSTON -- The Oakland Athletics are a balanced and deep team, which gives them lots of options on how to go about things through the course of a three-game series and, therefore, makes them hard to sweep. The Boston Red Sox scratched and clawed toward that goal on Sunday but fell short, dropping a 3-2 decision in 10 innings.

Oakland pushed across a run in the 10th on an infield RBI single by Yoenis Cespedes, who barely beat the throw to first from Will Middlebrooks with the bases loaded and two outs. Boston falls to 15-17, missing a chance to get to .500 for the first time since it was 2-2.

John Lackey performed well for the Sox, allowing two runs in six innings. His ERA over the last three games is 2.05. Lackey’s batterymate, A.J. Pierzynski, slugged a solo homer that tied it in the seventh.

A big play came in the bottom of the 10th after Middlebrooks reached second on a single and an error to start off the frame. After Jackie Bradley Jr. was unable to get a bunt down, he chopped one to first baseman Daric Barton, who threw across the diamond to get Middlebrooks at third.

Middlebrooks appeared to hurt his left arm or shoulder on the play. We will seek updates in the clubhouse.

Pier-less: Pierzynski was brought aboard in large part to provide a veteran backstop with defensive capabilities, but his bat has been a constant throughout a long career. That has definitely been the case at Fenway Park. After his solo shot, Pierzynski had a .331 career average in 48 games at Fenway. However, the blast was his first in Boston.

Why me?: Already twice this year Lackey has thrown just one pitch before enduring a managerial challenge. It happened April 18 versus Baltimore, when leadoff man Nick Markakis hit a shot down the left-field line that was ruled a double despite John Farrell’s protests that the ball sailed foul.

In this one, Coco Crisp hit the first pitch off a drawn-in Middlebrooks, with the carom going straight to shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Crisp was called out on a close play at first, and A’s manager Bob Melvin wanted a second look. This time the call went in Lackey’s favor, but just like on April 18, the opponent eventually scored a run in the inning.

Lackey voiced his displeasure with the delay the first time. We will see if he has anything to say about it this time.

Try, try again: Melvin burned up his challenge but did convince the umpires to review a play at the plate in the top of the third. This one also went the way of the Red Sox.

With Josh Donaldson on first and two outs in the inning, Brandon Moss doubled into the left-field corner. Donaldson tried to complete the 270-foot dash from first to home and was ruled out after a relay through Bogaerts. Melvin questioned whether Pierzynski had illegally blocked the plate, which was a factor in Donaldson being out.

After a review of 1 minute 52 seconds, the call stood. We imagine Lackey, who was already in the dugout looking ahead to the fourth inning, would not have taken kindly to being told to go back out to the mound facing a 2-0 deficit.

One side note on the play: Bogaerts was quite casual with the relay. He lacked urgency in his motion and did not get a ton of zip on the ball. He had the look of an infielder throwing to first on a routine grounder with a slow runner.

Give the kid credit for making up for it with a very nice play to end the sixth, ranging to his left for a one-hop liner and spinning to get Derek Norris at first and save a run.

Revenge factor: Donaldson had a measure of payback in the sixth, scoring from first on a double by Cespedes. This time, Donaldson went in head first and got his left hand across the plate as Pierzynski never had a chance to attempt a tag.

Working it: The 27 pitches Koji Uehara threw in the ninth inning (four batters) are the most he has thrown in 68 outings, including the postseason, dating to June 18. Cespedes took Uehara to a full count before striking out in a seven-pitch at-bat. Oakland's John Jaso had a nine-pitch at-bat before singling with a full count, Derek Norris had an eight-pitch at-bat before walking on a full count. Free-swinging Josh Reddick grounded into an inning-ending double play on the third pitch.

A mighty wind: Dustin Pedroia’s first at-bat leading off the bottom of the first resulted in what appeared to be a lazy fly to right. Reddick ended up catching it about 10 feet in front of the wall in the corner, our first indication of the power of the wind that was blowing in that direction.

Left fielder Grady Sizemore had an adventure with a ball in the fourth that kept drifting on him toward center. He ended up going into a slide on a ball that was nothing more than a pop to shallow left. Bogaerts caught a wind-whipped pop behind the mound to end the top of the fifth.

You would think Reddick, who has plenty of experience at Fenway, would have learned his lesson, but the only time the wind really hurt someone was when the former Red Sox outfielder misplayed Jonny Gomes’ fly to right in the seventh.

It went into the books as an error and gave the Sox runners at second and third with no outs. Alas, the old RISP issues reared their ugly head as Boston made three straight outs without plating what would have been the go-ahead run.

Speaking of Sizemore: After a slump took away some of the positive attention he had received during spring training, Sizemore has had some better swings of late with hits in five of his last seven games. Sunday marked Sizemore’s first multihit effort since April 13, with his RBI double in the fifth getting the Sox on the board.

Up next: After seven games in six days, the Sox get a much-needed day of rest Monday. They resume play at home against Cincinnati on Tuesday. Felix Doubront (1-3, 5.70 ERA) opposes Homer Bailey (2-2, 5.50) in a 7:10 p.m. start.