OAKLAND – Call it a scheduling quirk, coincidence, whatever, but the A’s will enter the All-Star Game break with a pretty fair idea of what awaits them if they make it to the postseason again based on their most recent opponents.
On Friday night they got their latest look at the Boston Red Sox, the team with best record in the American League. The Red Sox looked every bit as good as they did the first time the teams met, beating the A’s, 4-2, for the third time in four games overall.
This marked the first of three games for the A’s against the Red Sox, on the heels of a three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that has pushed the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in the National League.
As expected, not much separated the two teams. In the end, the Red Sox used a pair of two-out, two run singles to get past the A’s at the Coliseum.
“They capitalized on some of the mistakes we made … ,” said A’s reliever Sean Doolittle, who was charged with the loss after the two base runners he allowed scored on a Dustin Pedroia single that snapped a 2-2 tie in the eighth. “That’s what a good team does. Any little thing we did (wrong), they capitalized on it.”
The victory assured the Red Sox of entering the break with a better record than the A’s.
And, even though these games count the same as any other this season, there’s no denying that these are the kind of games where the A’s measure themselves, despite the fact A’s manager Bob Melvin downplayed the significance.
It wasn’t much of a comparison for the first four innings when Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey held the A’s without a hit and the Red Sox made every play defensively, while the A’s chased down errant throws all over the field.
Yet, as the A’s are wont to do, they hung around until things went their way and made things interesting for the 27.084 in attendance.
Credit Jarrod Parker for keeping the A’s in the game. He matched Lackey almost pitch for pitch, with the big difference a two-out, two-run single in the second inning.
“We know we need to play our game,” Parker said. “That’s pitching well and getting a couple of big hits. … We were in that game the whole time.”
Parker retired the final 16 batters he faced. During that time, the A’s chipped away at Lackey until they forged a 2-2 tie.
That score held until two outs in the eighth, when Pedroia lined his big hit off reliever Ryan Cook.
Pedroia also turned in a fine defensive play in the fifth, with the A’s trailing 2-1 and Josh Donaldson at bat with runners on first and third.
Donaldson hit a line shot to the right of second base, where Pedroia fielded the ball on the short hop and initiated an inning-ending double play on a ball that seemed destined for a game-tying single.
“That’s one of those momentum shifts that we’re talking about,” Melvin said. “That was probably the biggest play of the game.”
As Doolittle said, those are the kinds of plays that teams such as the Red Sox and A’s make. On Friday, the Red Sox just made more, especially when it counted most.
— The A’s outrighted infielder Adam Rosales to Triple-A Sacramento on Friday. Melvin said Rosales will get playing time at several positions. Rosales was designated for assignment after batting only .200 in 48 games.
— Some teams frown upon their players participating in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. Melvin said outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has his full blessing when he represents the A’s on Monday.
In fact, going for broke every swing just might benefit Cespedes the rest of the season, Melvin said. Cespedes entered Friday’s game hitting .176 in July (6 for 34).
“I wouldn’t argue that,” Melvin said. “He’s a guy that is a spotlight type guy, as we’ve seen since he first got here. I know he’s excited about it and rightly so. … It will be good for him to be in that spotlight. He likes the spotlight.”
— Pitcher Brett Anderson is throwing in excess of 100 feet these days, Melvin said. The next step in Anderson’s rehab from a sprained right ankle is throwing off a mound.
“Once we get on the mound, then you have a better indication of how far away you are. … We’re not there yet,” Melvin said.
Anderson has missed the past 65 games.
— Melvin waited for the right situation to use pitcher Sonny Gray in his major-league debut. The gloves are off now.
Melvin said the way Gray comported himself in a two-inning stint against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday showed that Gray is ready for anything.
“He impressed to the point where we could potentially use him in any situation,” Melvin said. “It didn’t look like he was nervous about anything.”
— The A’s and Red Sox played most of Friday night’s game with only three umpires. A Parker pitch in the top of the second grazed Daniel Nava and then drilled plate umpire C.B. Bucknor’s facemask. A’s trainers tended to Bucknor for a couple of minutes before Bucknor exited the field under his own power.
— Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury entered Friday’s game with a majors-best 19-game hitting streak. The A’s snapped that streak by retiring Ellsbury all four at-bats.