OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Derek Lowe's finish was better than his
start and that's all that mattered for the Boston Red Sox.
Shea Hillenbrand, right, is congratulated after hitting a solo homer in the fifth.
Lowe settled down after a shaky start to pitch eight strong
innings to lead Boston to its ninth straight win, 5-1 over the
Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
"I started off slow, but it got better as it went," said Lowe,
who won his fourth straight decision. "With this team, even if you
give up a run, you just hang in there because you know someone will
come up with a big hit." Jose Offerman and Shea Hillenbrand homered to lead the Red Sox
to a three-game sweep of the A's. "It's a good feeling to come out here and take three," Boston
manager Grady Little said. "There's nothing easy about it." Lowe (5-1), two games removed from pitching a no-hitter, allowed
one run and six hits. He walked two and struck out one. He retired
11 of the last 12 batters he faced. "I got into a little groove," Lowe said. "You knew it was
going to be a tough game because (Tim) Hudson doesn't make many
mistakes." Jermaine Dye drove in the only run for the A's, who have lost
seven of nine. Hudson (3-4) lost for the fourth time in five decisions despite
pitching into the seventh inning for the eighth time in as many
starts. Hudson gave up four runs and five hits and a walk. He
struck out five. "They're playing great baseball right now," Hudson said.
"They made the most of their hits and took advantage of my
mistakes. They're not a joke." The Red Sox (24-7), who have the best record in baseball, are
off to their best start since going 25-6 in 1946 and their
nine-game winning streak is the longest since a 12-gamer in August
1995. "I knew we were a good club out of spring training," Little
said. "I'm not surprised at the way we're playing. I'm a bit
surprised at our record. We're getting good results." Oakland, which fell to .500 for the first time since last July
7, took a 1-0 lead in the first after Randy Velarde singled with
one out, stole second and scored on Dye's single. The Red Sox took over in the third. Lou Merloni singled and Rey
Sanchez doubled to open the inning. After Johnny Damon hit a
sacrifice fly, Offerman hit the next pitch for a two-run homer, his
third of the season. Hillenbrand hit his seventh homer, a solo shot in the fifth, to
make it 4-1. Lowe allowed one runner past second base after the first inning
and was helped by an odd double play in the fourth. Eric Chavez doubled to start the inning and went to third when
Miguel Tejada grounded out. After Terrence Long walked, Ramon
Hernandez hit a sharp grounder to Offerman at first. Chavez broke
for the plate and was easily thrown out. Hernandez tried to advance on the play, but Long had remained at
second. Jason Varitek's throw to Lowe, covering first, caught
Hernandez off guard. He was eventually tagged out by Merloni after
a brief rundown. "That was the big play," said Lowe. "I pitched around Long to
set up a double play. It was a crazy way to do it, but it worked.
It was a shot in the arm. They had the momentum at that point and
we kind of took it back." Damon's hitting streak ended at 18 games after going 0-for-4.<
Trot Nixon added an RBI single in the eighth for Boston.
The Red Sox have doubled in 25 consecutive games, the most
since a 29-game streak during the 1991 season. ... Boston last
swept the A's in a three-game series May 29-31, 1995. ... Sanchez
extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his third-inning
double. ... The A's were swept for the first time since last June
15-17 in San Francisco. ... A's starters are 2-6 in the past nine
games with an 8.50 ERA. ... LHP Mark Mulder was activated from the
disabled list after the game and will start Friday's game against
the Toronto Blue Jays. RHP Mike Fyhrie was optioned to Sacramento
of the PCL to make room. ... Boston SS Nomar Garciaparra got a
scheduled day off.