The Oakland Athletics swung the wrecking ball in Sunday’s series finale at O.co Coliseum. The Boston Red Sox withstood the blow.
The A’s, who trailed by five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, rallied to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth after lights-out closer Koji Uehara surrendered home runs to Stephen Vogt and John Jaso. David Ortiz made sure the Red Sox avoided a total disaster by launching a clutch home run off Fernando Abad in the 10th inning to give Boston a 7-6 win.
“We’ve got to tell him some other at-bats when the game’s not on the line count, too,” outfielder Jonny Gomes joked of Ortiz, who was held hitless through the first nine innings. “But I mean yeah, that’s just David Ortiz padding that huge resume he has, and (we were) just fortunate he’s leading that inning off (in the 10th) — tough at-bat against Abad, a lefty — and there he is again.”
Ortiz’s blast was nothing out of the ordinary for the nine-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, who has made a living off thriving in big moments. But it wasn’t any less important, as the Red Sox went from being in total control in the eighth inning to being on the brink of suffering their fourth straight loss before heading to Seattle for three games against the Mariners.
Jon Lester was cruising Sunday until he hit Craig Gentry with an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the eighth. Lester then walked Jed Lowrie, at which point Red Sox manager John Farrell turned to Burke Badenhop, who has been one of Boston’s most reliable bullpen arms to date. Badenhop, who entered the contest having gone 32 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, saw his streak end and the Red Sox’s lead dwindle as he surrendered three straight RBI singles.
Andrew Miller replaced Badenhop and retired Coco Crisp, who was the hero both Friday and Saturday, on a line drive to shortstop Jonathan Herrera. The Red Sox, despite their rocky eighth inning, could take solace in the fact that they held a two-run lead when handing the ball to Uehara, who had been a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities this season.
The A’s managed to accomplish the unthinkable, though. Vogt went deep with one out in the ninth, and Jaso, pinch-hitting for Gentry, launched a no-doubter with two outs to force extra innings. Just like that, the Red Sox were on the verge of spoiling their first solid offensive performance in more than a week.
Fortunately for Boston, Ortiz had some heroics up his sleeve, and the Red Sox salvaged a victory in an otherwise rough four-game set in Oakland. The Sox, who scored three runs or fewer in eight straight games before Sunday’s finale, now can look to build on a strong effort in which the offense produced 13 hits, including one from each player in the starting lineup.
“Given what’s taken place the last three days, I really liked the way we came out, swung the bats early,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, whose team scored four runs over the first three innings. “We responded again late, with David’s big home run as the difference in this one. But despite the last three days, our guys are still fighting, they’re still putting together as tough and as best at-bats as they can. This was a hard-fought series, and it’s good to salvage one out of it.”
The Red Sox’s world nearly came crashing down Sunday. But in the end, Boston stood tall.