OAKLAND –- Quiet for most of the night in his Bay Area return, Pablo Sandoval ultimately delivered the latest knockout blow to the A’s.
His home run off Angel Castro in the top of the 11th made the difference in a 5-4 Boston Red Sox victory that extended Oakland’s losing streak to six games.
By now you’re quite familiar with the numbers. The A’s fell to 0-6 in extra-inning games this season and 1-11 in contests decided by one run. Their six-game skid is their longest since a nine-game losing streak that bridged May to June in 2012.
Over the course of a back-and-forth contest at the Coliseum, there were subtle signs that perhaps things might turn in the A’s favor. They answered back to tie the game after reliever Evan Scribner gave up two runs in the top of the seventh.
Their struggling bullpen delivered three innings of scoreless baseball to take the game into the 11th. And in the top of the 10th, Mike Napoli’s screaming liner found its way into the glove of first baseman Mark Canha to strand the go-ahead run on second base.
But it was Sandoval, after receiving his World Series ring from the Giants the night before, who prolonged the A’s frustrations. After falling behind 0-2 against Castro, the A’s 32-year-old rookie, the Panda got a pitch that caught way too much of the plate and drilled a laser that barely cleared the right field wall to snap a 4-4 tie.
Starting pitching report
Scott Kazmir twice gave up runs to tie the game after his teammates had handed him a lead. But when all was said and done, the lefty delivered six innings of two-run ball. A solid night’s work.
He and second baseman Eric Sogard teamed up for a well-timed pickoff play in the sixth to nail David Ortiz, who led off with a double. The Red Sox challenged and appeared they might have an argument that Sogard missed the tag, but the play was reviewed and upheld.
Evan Scribner took over for Kazmir to start the seventh looking to protect a 3-2 lead. After three consecutive one-out singles the game was tied. Then with men on the corners and one out, a play unfolded that was typical of how things have gone for Oakland.
Dustin Pedroia hit a comebacker right to Scribner. With Blake Swihart breaking from third, Scribner had the option of cutting down the go-ahead runner. He chose to go for the inning-ending double play and threw to second, but shortstop Marcus Semien had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and never got a throw off to first, and Swihart scored to put Boston ahead 4-3.
After the A’s tied it in the seventh, Edward Mujica took the mound for the eighth, making his Oakland debut against the team that traded him just two days earlier. He delivered a 1-2-3 inning. Then interim closer Tyler Clippard threw two scoreless innings before handing things over to Castro (0-1).
At the plate
Billy Burns, starting in the leadoff spot with Coco Crisp dropped to second, reached on a bunt single in the third and came around to score on Billy Butler’s single to right for a short-lived 1-0 lead. Burns added a double, seemingly doing enough to remain in the top spot for at least another day.
Stephen Vogt did what he’s done all season. He scored Butler with a double to right-center in the fifth, then came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the seventh that made it 4-4. He entered the day ranked second in the A.L. in RBI and now has 28 for the season.
Perhaps most encouraging for the A’s, from an offensive standpoint, was Butler’s 3-for-5 night. That included his fifth-inning double that preceded Vogt’s run-scoring double. Butler, the A’s cleanup man, entered the night with just four RBI and two extra-base hits over his previous 16 games.
In the field
Coco Crisp must have thought he finally had his first hit of the season when he lined a ball in the sixth that seemed ticketed to be a two-run single. But Sox first baseman Mike Napoli made a terrific play to snare the ball for the third out.
Not to be outdone, the A’s Max Muncy – who entered the game in the fourth when first baseman Ike Davis left with a leg injury – left his feet to make an outstanding catch of Ortiz’s liner in the next inning.
Semien’s throwing error to the plate on a close play in the fourth went for his 10th error, and fourth in the past three games.
The announced turnout was 19,743, a small gathering considering the high-profile opponent. A couple Panda hats were spotted down near the visitors’ dugout.
After a sterling effort in his season debut, Drew Pomeranz (1-3, 5.12) has posted a 6.57 ERA over his last five starts. He’ll try to right the ship in Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game. Justin Masterson (2-1, 5.18) goes for Boston.