The A's battled, then battled again, but ultimately couldn't cover their own miscues en route to a 9-6 loss on a frigid night in Boston. I give the Red Sox some credit for their aggressive offensive strategy. They clearly came in with a game plan for AJ Griffin, and it worked: Sit fastball, and swing early and often. Griffin couldn't adjust as they punished fastball after fastball, and his defense did him no favors.
Like many games at Fenway Park, this ordeal felt like three games in one. The A's started off with a 2nd inning teAse that made A's fans temporarily forget the flop at the Trop over the weekend, plating two thanks to hits by Joshes Donaldson and Reddick.
The 2-0 lead was short lived. The Boston Red Sox scored one run in the latter half of the 2nd on back-to-back doubles by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, and added three more in the 4th inning via a Will Middlebrooks home run.
At this point, it was still anyone's game; a 4-2 lead in the top of the 5th at Boston is far from insurmountable. The A's got to work, loading the bases on two walks sandwiching an Andy Parrino single. Unfortunately for the A's, Chris Young, mired in a mega funk stepped to the plate. He did hit it far enough to garner a sacrifice fly, but against a mediocre lefty, the A's expect more (seriously he is being dramatically out-hit by Eric Sogard. After his 0-3 night he clocks in at a cool .598 OPS). Brandon Moss walked, reloading the bases, but Lowrie flew out to end the threat. Oh well, 4-3, not bad, right? Wrong.
Shane Victorino led off the bottom of the 5th with a single. Griffin got Dustin Pedroia to hit a double play grounder, Donaldson fielded it cleanly but Parrino couldn't catch the ball. Instead of two outs, everyone was safe. Giving this beastly Red Sox lineup extra outs is inexcusable. Now, instead of bases empty, 2 outs, David Ortiz, it was 2 on, no out. Big Difference. Ortiz walked.
And then, the most predictable grand slam ever happened, as Napoli sat fastball again and parked the first one he saw from Griffin right over the monster. For good measure, Moss made another error, extending the inning for the Sox to add on one more.
The A's, though, still had four chances to bat, and they came alive in the 8th inning (a.k.a. TeAse #2). Moss walked, Norris was hit by a pitch, and then Donaldson continued his tear with a 2 RBI double. And, for the second time in this game, Reddick followed a Donaldson hit with one of his own, driving in Donaldson with a double. Seth Smith, pinch hitting for Nate Freiman, drew a walk.
And then, the goat of the game was about to step to the plate...Andy Parrino would have his chance for redemption! Or not. Alas, Bob Melvin isn't writing a personal story of triumph and he did what any sane person would do; sub in an undersized guy with glasses.
Eric Sogard absolutely belted a 91 MPH Junichi Tazawa fastball right down the middle...for an out to the longest part of the park. He hit that ball probably 380 feet with nothing to show for it. Perhaps a player slower than Shane Victorino doesn't get to that ball, and this ending turns out differently, with Harry Potter finding the snitch or something. Instead we got the loudest possible out at Fenway Park, and the A's came up short.
A few encouraging things, though: Reddick got two solid hits, Donaldson is swinging the bat well (Joshes are the new Brandons), and our hitters didn't give up. Also, our bullpen did great, allowing one run, and Jesse Chavez especially impressed with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
I'll give AJ Griffin a pass as he is still learning (he started last year in AA, I have to keep reminding myself). Hopefully he and Norris will pick up on a team's strategy and find a way to make adjustments in the future.
However, mistakes like Parrino's are unconscionable, digging a struggling pitcher deeper into the hole. The A's have looked sloppy, undisciplined, and afraid to rise to the occasion throughout this losing streak, but this was a thoroughly winnable game that they bobbled away. And thus the streak continues. The A's look to Colon to be the stopper tomorrow.
Billy Beane already rang Chris Young's bell with the Casper Wells pickup; I anticipate a solid benching and demotion for Parrino in the coming days. Beane don't play.