These kinds of days, it seemed, were in the rear-view mirror for the A’s.
Their 7-4 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday brought unwanted flashbacks of missed opportunities, late blown leads and a final score that completely changed the complexion of how they viewed this six-game road trip.
Given a chance to cap their first winning road trip in a calendar year, the A’s instead coughed up a four-run eight-inning lead, as the Sox paraded around the base paths in a seven-run flurry that saw A’s manager Bob Melvin make four pitching changes before the third out was finally recorded.
The end result was a three-game sweep at the hands of Boston and a 3-3 finish to the two-city trip. But that hardly sums things up.
Over three days, it feels like the A’s flushed away so much of the positive vibes they worked so hard in building. They were fresh off a sweep at Detroit that made them 9-3 over their previous 12 games. They were taking on a Red Sox team that was licking its wounds having lost seven of its previous 10.
A win Sunday, and the A’s could have boarded their cross-country charter feeling good about a 4-2 trip, coming on the heels of a winning homestand. Instead, what unfolded Sunday showed that the A’s haven’t shaken free of the issues that saddled them with the American League’s worst record in the first place.
[Instant Replay: Bullpen blows late lead, A's swept by Red Sox]
They had the Sox on the ropes early thanks to some excellent production from the bottom of their lineup. Ahead 4-0 in the fourth inning, they had the bases loaded and no outs against Boston starter Clay Buchholz. But they couldn’t deliver a knockout blow, as Marcus Semien and Stephen Vogt both struck out and cleanup hitter Billy Butler grounded harmlessly to second on the first pitch he saw.
The A’s returned to the field leading by four, but in the back of your mind, you wondered if that missed opportunity would come back to haunt them.
The spotlight should have been on Kendall Graveman after this one. The right-hander pitched a career-high seven-plus innings and blanked Boston until giving up Rusney Castillo’s solo homer to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Melvin had setup man Evan Scribner and closer Tyler Clippard lined up to salt things away.
“With the way Scribner and Clippard have been pitching, you feel like you’re in a good position,” Melvin said. “Graveman pitched great. That’s as long as he’s gone. He’s over 100 pitches and we have our best guys rested down there.”
But Scribner gave up three consecutive hits to make it 4-2. Drew Pomeranz came on and gave up David Ortiz’s sacrifice fly, but all things considered, that was a positive outcome.
It left a runner on first with one out and the A’s holding a 4-3 lead. Melvin called on Clippard, who was looking for a five-out save. The right-hander was 6-for-6 in save opportunities over his past eight outings. But after whiffing Mike Napoli for the second out, Clippard surrendered four consecutive hits – Pablo Sandoval’s single off the base of the Green Monster, Xander Bogaerts’ two-run double, pinch hitter Alejandro De Aza’s RBI single and Castillo’s second hit of the inning, which scored the final run to make it 7-4.
“Early on and deeper into the game, it looked like we had a nice win to go home on,” Melvin said, “a 4-2 road trip. But, there’s not much you can do about it now.”
And that had to be the worst part of a long flight back to the Bay Area, which left way too much time for contemplating all the things that went wrong. Sunday’s come-from-ahead defeat was a familiar feeling, and one the A’s had no desire to experience again.
A.J. Griffin, who is recovering from Tommy John Surgery, pitched for the A's Single-A affiliate in Stockton on Sunday. Griffin walked one and struck out five in four innings.