Jul 12, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey (41) pitches the ball against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Lackey 3-hits A's, Peedy DP pivotal play, Sox win 4-2, acquire LH closer Thornton

The best two teams in the American League sent their hottest starters, both TJ surgery success stories, to the mound and the veteran Lackey [7-6] and the young Jarrod Parker [6-6] went toe-to-toe for seven innings in a 2-2 tie; then both managers went to their bullpen: Baily & Uehara tossed two shutout innings,  but, the A’s were undone by Sean Doolittle, who allowed Pedroia to knock in the winning runs in the 4-2 victory.

The Sox have now won 4 straight and improved their road record to 27-21, still lead MLB in wins and this 58th win put the 2013 team ahead of the 1978 Sox (57-26) for most Ws, before the All-Star break, in franchise history.

Winner Lackey, the reigning staff Ace, continued his dominant streak; he allowed just 3 hits in his 7 innings and said that this season the best first half of his career. Opponents are hitting .243 against him, and he has lasted at least seven innings in each of his last six starts. Lackey has now allowed three runs, or less, in 14 of his 16 starts and posted a 2.32 ERA in 11 outings since May 19th.

Here is Lackey’s game summary:

“Honestly, tonight was kind of a grind…I didn’t really feel as good as I have the last four or five times, but I was able to kind of grind through it. Guys made a couple nice plays for me, especially [second baseman Dustin] Pedroia on the double play ball. It was a huge play for me, and then they picked me up with a couple runs there in the end. It was a good team effort.”

Lackey, the longtime Angel, leads all active pitchers in W% against the A’s with an 18-6 record with a 2.91 ERA; he went 7 innings tonight and held the A’s to just 3 hits, 2 runs, walked 4 and K’d 5, shrinking his season ERA to 2.78.

“The last three outings it looks like his arm strength continues to build,” manager John Farrell said. “We are seeing some velocities on the board that we haven’t seen in quite a while from him. Once again, very good command, a lot of strikes. An outstanding performance on his part.”

The Sox drew first blood in the 2nd when:

Lead-off batter Napoli singled on a ground ball to third baseman Josh Donaldson who tossed it wildly past Brandon Moss at 1b allowing Napoli to advance to 2nd.

Daniel Nava was hit by a pitch.

Saltalamacchia flew out deep to left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and Napoli advanced to 3rd and Nava to 2nd.

Jose Iglesias flew out to right fielder Josh Reddick for the second out.

Recent call-up 3b Brock Holt extended his hitting streak to six games, when he smacked a line drive to left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, driving in Napoli and Nava.

@ 0:25 here: http://wapc.mlb.com/bos/play/?content_id=28859137&topic_id=8878554&c_id=bos

 “There’s no secret,” Pedroia said. “We’re just turning out quality at-bats. Brock’s at-bat was huge. We’ve just been able to find ways to find that one pitch and make sure we don’t miss it.”

“As much as we talked earlier in the year where that two-out base-hit was elusive, we’ve been fortunate of late,’’ said manager John Farrell. “The two-run single by Holt and the two-run single by Pedroia against (Ryan) Cook was the difference in this one.”

Five of Holt’s seven RBI have come with two outs this season.

“I’ve been fortunate to come up with guys on base and even more fortunate to get some hits, it’s been a good run,’’ Holt said. “Credit to the guys in front of me, getting on and getting into good positions. I’m just up there with two outs same as if there were one out, no outs, just looking for a good pitch to hit and try to square it up.’’

Parker then set the Sox down 1-2-3 for the next five innings [3rd through 7th].

The A’s tied the game with a run in the 5th and the 6th innings.

In the home half of the 5th, lead-off  batter Seth Smith doubled (20) on a line drive to left fielder Daniel Nava.

After Eric Sogard grounded out, Lackey walked Coco Crisp, putting runners on First and Second.

Catcher John Jaso singled to RF scoring Seth Smith and Coco Crisp advanced to 3rd, on a fielding error by right fielder Shane Victorino.

In a pivotal play, Josh Donaldson grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, initiated by a brilliant Pedroia snag of a screaming line drive and toss.

“That defensive play was kind of self-defense,” Pedroia said. “Thank God it went in my glove, because if it didn’t, it would’ve probably put a hole in my chest.”

“That’s one of those momentum shifts we’re talking about,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We had a lot of momentum there. J.D.’s up and hits a bullet. As soon as he hits it you’re thinking there’s no way he’s going to make that play, and all of a sudden it ends up into two. That was probably the biggest play of the game.”

As A’s beat writer, John Shea, observed in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Josh Donaldson hit a short-hopper about as hard as humanly possible, and Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia gloved it as if it were a cherry hop,

as if he had the ability to make fast-moving objects appear in slow motion.”

“A game-changing play,” Donaldson said.

“As soon as he hits it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Donaldson’s shot to Pedroia, “you’re thinking there’s no way he’s going to make that play, and all of a sudden it ends up as two outs.”

Donaldson said, “I think it caught him. I don’t think he caught it. But it was a perfect play to make the double play.”

@ here: http://wapc.mlb.com/bos/play/?content_id=28859137&topic_id=8878554&c_id=bos

@ 1:10 here: http://wapc.mlb.com/bos/play/?content_id=28859137&topic_id=8878554&c_id=bos

Former Boston SS Jed Lowrie hit  HR to RF [7] off Lackey in the bottom of the 6th to tie the score.

@ 1:25 here: http://wapc.mlb.com/bos/play/?content_id=28859137&topic_id=8878554&c_id=bos

In the fateful 8th A’s manager went to the pen for relief, but it was more a relief for the Sox to see Parker, who had retired 16 straight, depart.

Why take out your starter who has just mowed down 16 in a row?

“He was struggling early on with his command,” Melvin explained. “You could see him bouncing several pitches and really fighting himself. After the seventh, usually he fights for it pretty hard. I just felt like he was a little bit tired right there. Didn’t want to send him out there and get into a situation where his pitch count gets up there. We had a chance to go with a clean inning right there. I think he was spent.”

Parker reluctantly agreed.

“I always want to continue to pitch,” he said. “I just think it’s in the better interest of the team to give a clean inning to our relievers. If I go out and walk the first guy, it’s not smart.”

“We didn’t have a whole lot of other opportunities against (A’s starter Jarrod) Parker, who threw the ball well,” Farrell said. “But timely hitting and once again, Holt with the sacrifice bunt gave us a chance to build an inning, (Shane) Victorino with the stolen base right before Pedroia’s base hit, just another very good overall win on our part.’’

Enter Sean Doolittle, who did little to prevent the Boston offense. Parker had thrown 93 pitches, 59 strikes in his first start since exiting a game early on June 29 with tightness in his right hamstring; Parker had run a 2.24 in his last eight starts.

Oakland’s relief corps had combined to allow just five runs over its previous 26 2/3 innings for a 1.69 ERA during that time.

Jose Iglesias greeted Doolittle with a single to right and advanced to 2nd on a Brock Holt sacrifice bunt:

Holt put down a bunt that Doolittle quickly gloved and would have  forced Iglesias at second, but, “I went to plant my feet and just slipped.”

Iglesias and moved to 3rd when Ellsbury grounded out 4-3.

Victorino was hit by pitch, putting runners on the corners.

Ryan Cook replaced Sean Doolittle.

With Dustin Pedroia batting, Shane Victorino stole 2nd base (10th).

With runners on 2nd and 3rd, “Mr. Clutch,” Dustin Pedroia, singled on a line drive to left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, scoring Iglesias and Victorino.

@ 1:45  here: http://wapc.mlb.com/bos/play/?content_id=28859137&topic_id=8878554&c_id=bos

It was another example of “Boston Clutch”– two-out hitting accounted for all four of Boston’s runs Friday and 11 of the team’s last 13.

“He’s got great stuff,” Pedroia said of Cook. “His slider is pretty darn good and he throws upper-90s. I always hit off the fastball and I just kept my hands back and was able to hit it on the barrel, so it worked out for us.”

As for Cook, manager Bob Melvin said his pitch “just stayed there in the middle.”

“Actually it might have been inner third or middle,” Melvin said, “but with Pedroia, you have to make a good pitch right there and you have to get it away. And that doesn’t even sometimes do it for him, because he’s looking to go the other way.”

After Lackey threw 69 strikes in 113 pitches in his seven frames, Former Oakland closer, Andrew Bailey, took the ball in the 8th; he got two quick outs, walked Jaso, setting off fibrillations and moans across Red Sox Nation; but, then fanned Cespedes with a 93 MPH heater and Sox fans exhaled.

Current Sox closer Uehrara struck out the side in the 9th for his 8th SV [ERA 1.79].

After completing the best first half season of his career, Lackey humbly forecast an even better second half:

“It’s still a work in progress, but I feel pretty good with where I’m at…Usually my touch and feel and that sort of stuff, offspeed pitches, it’s usually better in the second half, that’s usually what happens for me.”

Career stat: Lackey has pitched better after the All-Star break.

Since it is mandatory for all  MLB managers, Farrell stated the obvious:

“In any series you’re always hopeful that you can come out on top to give you a chance by winning game one…We know this is going to be a challenge for us. They’re a very good team. Just reflecting on the April series against them, this is going to be a hard-fought three-game series. It’s good to get the first win in.”

In game two on Saturday [10:05 PM, EST], Lester (8-5) will try to find his groove vs. Griffin (7-6)

 

SOX FEATS:

The Red Sox addressed their need for a left-handed relief pitcher on Friday night, swinging a deal with the White Sox for veteran Matt Thornton. Chicago also sent Boston $750,000 cash in exchange for Minor League outfielder Brandon Jacobs.

He’s expected to join the team here tonight and be available to pitch against the A’s.

“I know I said previously that you don’t go into July hoping to have to trade for a reliever,” Cherington said. “We’ve had some attrition in that area. When Andrew went down, it probably increased our level of urgency. You can’t be stubborn either. We’re in good position, and we have an obligation to do what we can.

“We felt like this made sense and to do it at this time and not wait until the deadline because we’ve got plenty of important games between now and July 31.”

Cherington noted that Red Sox scouts saw him reach 97 mph on the radar gun Thursday night in Detroit.

Thornton gives the Red Sox a second lefty in the bullpen and allows Craig Breslow to take over as a full-fledged set-up man role vacated by Miller.

“His stuff is still really good,” Cherington said. “He’s not 29 anymore. It used to be elite, elite stuff, and it may just be really good stuff now. But we’re confident he has enough stuff to be effective in the role that we need him in.”

Thornton also is owed a little less than $3 million for the rest of the season, with the Red Sox holding a $6 million option (or $1 million buyout) for next year. The cash from the White Sox will pay a portion of Thornton’s remaining salary.

Thornton worked with Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves for several seasons in Chicago.

“There’s certainly a comfort level with Juan’s relationship, but I think the No. 1 thing is the track record,” Cherington said. “He’s a proven left-handed relief pitcher who has been effective in the American League for a long time.”Jacobs, 22, was promoted this week to Double-A Portland after batting .244 with 11 homers and 44 RBI for Single-A Salem. The Red Sox would’ve had to put Jacobs on the 40-man roster this winter or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Thornton, the Sox transferred Miller to the 60-day disabled list.

Manager John Farrell said he plans to use Thornton in the sixth and seventh innings. He may profile best as a lefty specialist. Left-handed hitters are batting .173 against him this season, while right-handers are batting .320. Those splits are far less pronounced over his 10-year career, with lefties batting .229 compared to .238 for right-handed hitters.

Thornton is 0-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 40 appearances for the White Sox this season. The 36-year-old has struck out 21 and walked 10 over 28 innings, holding left-handed batters to a .173 average (9-for-52).

Since 2008, Thornton leads all Major League left-handed relievers with 382 strikeouts. In eight seasons with the White Sox, the 2010 AL All-Star compiled a 3.28 ERA.

Thornton is making $5.5 million this season, the last of a two-year deal that includes a $6 million team option for 2014, with a $1 million buyout.

Jacobs was Boston’s 10th-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. The 23-year-old has split this season between Class A-Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland, batting .246 with 24 doubles, 11 home runs and 44 RBIs. He was ranked as the organization’s No. 11 prospect by MLB.com– Andrew Simon http://mlb.mlblogs.com/

* Pedroia´s first four seasons (2006-2009), his K% was among the game´s best at around 7% and he remains one of the toughest players to strike out, averaging barely 64 strikeouts per season.

* 58 wins for the majors-leading Red Sox, one more than they had before the break in either 1978 or 2008.

* 7  consecutive Ws for Lackey, whose 2.78 ERA ranks 4th in the AL behind the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda (2.65), Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (2.69) and Oakland’s Bartolo Colon (2.69).

* Jacoby Ellsbury’s 19-game hitting streak came to a close. He had batted .413 with seven doubles, two home runs, 11 RBIs and 16 runs during the stretch.

* Boston is now one win away from claiming its 20th series victory of the season before the All-Star break that would match the Sox’s total number of series victories last season. The 4-2 victory broke a six-game losing skein at the “Oh, oh, oh” Coliseum.

* The four RBI gave the Red Sox 167 two-out RBI on the season, fifth highest in the American League.

* The A’s had won 18 of their last 22 games and own the best home record in the American League.

* Team depth:

“Every organization has a certain amount of depth. In Toronto’s case, most of their younger talent in A-ball and Double A was not ready to come up and step into the big leagues and help us out and get us over the injury hump…Here in Boston, the difference is they have a lot of young upper level prospects that were ready — Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Steven Wright — come in pitching-wise and done a great job. Any time you lose the amount of starters like we did in Toronto, that’s tough to overcome but given the circumstances here, this year, when a pitcher’s gone down, we’ve had guys step right in and kind of keep us moving in the right direction.” Boston coach Torey Lovullo.

We’ve got half of Pawtucket here right now and we’re still doing the job day in and day out…Now that it’s (Brock) Holt and (Brandon) Snyder and (Brandon) Workman and Wright, we’ve had a lot of guys come in and do an outstanding job. I think it just speaks to the overall depth of the organization, not just the 25-man roster.’’ said Farrell.

BOX HERE:  http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_07_12_bosmlb_oakmlb_1&mode=recap_away&c_id=bos#gid=2013_07_12_bosmlb_oakmlb_1&mode=box

 

 

Tags: Dustin Pedroia John Lackey Matt Thornton

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