OAKLAND – The A’s snapped a two-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at the Coliseum.
They turned to a tried-and-true formula, one that keyed their run to the American League West title last season and has them in first place again this season: Impressive starting pitching, timely hitting and air tight relief pitching.
In the process, the A’s maintained their one-game lead over the Texas Rangers and assured themselves at least a share of the division lead at the break.
“You’re going to win a lot of games if your starters give you that kind of effort every night,” A’s first baseman Nate Freiman said of A.J. Griffin, who blanked the Red Sox over eight innings. “That was more than solid pitching, it was awesome.”
Griffin’s blanking of the Red Sox marked the 10th straight time an A’s starter allowed three or fewer runs.
The victory had far more to do with superb pitching than it did with the A’s hitters roughing up starter Jon Lester and the Red Sox bullpen, though the A’s recorded more timely hits than in recent games.
The A’s hit just enough to overcome a Red Sox offense that failed to solve Griffin for eight innings. They have scored nine runs in the past five games combined, or one fewer than they did against the Kansas City Royals last Sunday.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said his team’s drop in offensive production in recent games owes just as much to the quality of the opposing pitching.
When you face guys such as John Lackey on Friday and Lester on Saturday, runs are at a “premium,” Melvin said.
So it was that Freiman called catcher Derek Norris’ solo home run in the sixth inning “huge” and run-scoring singles by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and designated hitter Coco Crisp “big,” especially with the way Griffin was dealing.
Norris watched video of Griffin’s outing against the Red Sox on April 22 before Saturday’s game and told Griffin that he didn’t need to change much. In that first meeting, the Red Sox scored nine runs off Griffin.
“I told him, ‘When you got in trouble, you just missed location. Anytime you get your location with your pitches, you were fine,’ ” Norris said. “So, stay on location was our No. 1 thing.”
To that end, Griffin said he followed Norris’ lead and pitched to the location called for time after time.
“I was just trying to go out there and keep them off the board for as long as (possible),” Griffin said.
Griffin seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, too. He retired the Red Sox in order in the seventh and eighth before he turned over the ball to closer Grant Balfour.
The A’s are tough to beat on most nights because of their reliable pitching. As the Red Sox found out Saturday, it’s even more difficult to break through when the A’s primary catalysts are on point.
Crisp entered the game with 12 hits in his past 72 at-bats, but he made his one hit Saturday count by giving Griffin a two-run lead.
Cespedes entered Saturday’s game with six hits and no RBI in 36 at-bats in July. He contributed two hits and a walk, with his lone out being a line drive that required a diving catch.
– Rookie Grant Green started for the third time since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento. As was the case the first two times, Green started against a left-handed pitcher. He went 0 for 3 and remains hitless in nine at-bats.
– Melvin said his players will reconvene Friday after the All-Star break and get in a workout five hours before their game that night against the Angels.
– There’s still no word on whether Bartolo Colon will make himself available to pitch in the All-Star Game, Melvin said. Therefore, Melvin won’t set his pitching rotation for second half until he knows whether Colon is pitching for the AL squad Tuesday.
– Cespedes hammered ball after ball over the outfield fence during an extended batting session that mirrored the setup at the home-run derby.
– Third baseman Josh Donaldson still was somewhat of a curiosity at this point last season, his first full year in the majors. Now, he’s one of Melvin’s sure things every day.
“He’s nailed down the position, there’s no doubt about that,” Melvin said. “It’s always nice to be able to write out the lineup everyday knowing that Josh Donaldson is going to be at third base and he’s going to hit in the middle of the order somewhere.”
– Melvin was among those who presented All-Star Game jerseys to Cespedes and Colon before Saturday’s game.
– The A’s sold out a game for the ninth time this season, with 36,097 the announced figure.