Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout the first months of the 2014 season, the .500 mark has been dancing before the Boston Red Sox’ eyes like a mirage in a desert. However, coming off two consecutive wins against the Oakland Athletics and just one game down, this looked like it could be the day that all that changed.
The A’s scored early against Boston starting pitcher John Lackey, putting together a rally in the first inning when Josh Donaldson walked with two outs. Donaldson picked up his first stolen base of the season against the slow-working Lackey and then scored on an RBI single by Brandon Moss to give the A’s an early 1-0 lead.
After that early run, both starting pitchers were on their game and the matchup took form as a major pitchers’ duel between the young and the old with Lackey going up against 24-year old A’s phenom Sonny Gray (4-1, 1.76). Gray was dominant in the early going, holding the Red Sox to just one hit while walking none in his first four innings. And after that first inning run, Lackey was fairly dominant in his own right as he held the A’s scoreless while allowing three hits and a walk.
The Red Sox first started to make inroads into Oakland’s early lead in the fifth inning when Mike Carp and A.J. Pierzysnki each singled to start the inning. Following a strikeout by Xander Bogaerts, Grady Sizemore drove a double into right field to score Carp from second base and put two runners in scoring position with just one out. Unfortunately, what looked like a potential rally was cut short when Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded into a double play to end the inning.
However, the A’s were not done scoring just yet. Once again, the rally started with a walk by Josh Donaldson, who would score on a double crushed off the monster by Yoenis Cespedes.
Sonny Gray held that lead briefly through the bottom of the sixth, but the Red Sox got right back into the ballgame in the seventh. Pierzysnki, leading off the inning, worked a full count against Gray before crushing a home run into right-center field to tie the ballgame at 2-2. Gray was removed from the game and it became a battle of the bullpens in Fenway Park.
A Red Sox cohort of Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara had kept the A’s scoreless since the sixth and the Athletics’ group of Fernando Abad, Luke Gregerson, Sean Doolittle, and Jim Johnson had done the same thing. The game entered extra innings and the Red Sox put Chris Capuano on the mound one day after a bad performance against the A’s. Unfortunately, history repeated itself in the top of the tenth as Capuano allowed the A’s to load the bases with two outs.
Burke Badenhop came into the game to face Yoenis Cespedes and induced a weak ground ball on an 0-2 count. However, the grounder was perfectly placed as it was hit softly enough that Cespedes beat Will Middlebrooks‘ throw to first base, pushing the run across to give Oakland a 3-2 lead.
However, the Red Sox didn’t appear to be done just yet. Will Middlebrooks singled to center to lead off the bottom of the tenth and a bad hop took a strange bounce off Coco Crisp‘s chest, allowing Middlebrooks to race into second base with no outs. Jackie Bradley Jr. looked to have advanced Middlebrooks to third base with one out, but first baseman Daric Barton took Bradley’s weak grounder and fired it to third to nail Middlebrooks for the first out of the inning. The game wasn’t officially over, but that was essentially the nail in the coffin before Dustin Pedroia grounded into a game-ending double play, ensuring that the Red Sox weren’t quite ready to surpass the .500 mark.