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Harden Stifles the Red Sox as Brown Atones For Yesterday

Well, THAT was much more fun of a game to get up early for! And instead of being frustrated and tired at work, we can all be happy and tired instead!

The big story of the day obviously centers around James Richard Harden, who made his bid to right the A’s ship with a 95 pitch, six-inning outing, that boasted three hits, one run, three walks, and nine strikeouts.

Harden opened the game by striking out Pedroia and Manny, added two strikeouts in the second, one in the third, Ross and Manny again in the fourth, one in the fifth, and one in the sixth. He was absolutely filthy; didn’t surrender a hit until the fourth inning, and the only time the Red Sox even had a threat was Manny’s solo homerun in the sixth. It’s almost too good to be true, and I’m waiting with baited breath to see how James Richard feels in the next couple of days, especially after another long flight home.

The A’s got into the scoring action in the second, as Crosby got a hanging pitch and didn’t miss it; drilling it into the corner for a double and later scoring on Norfie’s single. (Seriously, what would you nickname him?!)

Travis Buck’s early season struggles were exposed later in the inning, and yes, Lester is tough on lefties, but you simply have to put together a tougher at-bat with runners on the corners and two out. Likewise, when you have two more runners on the bases in the bottom of the sixth, get the bat off your shoulder and swing. Buck seems to be taking until he gets two strikes instead of looking for a hittable pitch early. The last thing the A’s need is an automatic out at the top of the lineup, and at 0-10, that’s how the season begins for Buck.

Things got better for the A’s offense during the bottom of the third. After Ellis walked to open the inning, Sweeney moved him to third with a one-out hit (his second on the day; can we find a way to work this guy into the lineup?!), and Emil Brown came up with a chance to extend the A’s slim 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly and earn himself some redemption for last night. We got a lot more than we expected, as Brown took a Lester pitch over the left field fence for a three-run homerun, extending the A’s lead to 4-0. Okay, fine. Emil, I’m really sorry I tried to fire you after yesterday’s game. It was early in the morning; I hadn’t slept all night and you ran into an out to end a high-profile game against the Red Sox. We can be okay now, though.

The A’s didn’t add to their scoring until they tacked on a much-needed insurance run in the eighth, complements of Suzuki’s second double of the day, and Fiorentino’s single in his first at-bat of the day.

Five runs turned out to be more than enough for the A’s pitchers. Harden was replaced by Casilla in the seventh, with the A’s still holding on to a 4-1 lead. Casilla immediately continued the trend Harden left; striking out two of the four batters he faced, and once again, the A’s used Keith Foulke in a big spot, starting the eighth, facing the heart of the lineup. Foulke retired the first batter, but Crosby chose a very inopportune time to make his first error of the season, allowing a baserunner in front of David Ortiz, who very nearly took Foulke deep. But the ball stayed in the park, and after a wild pitch advanced the runner to second, Foulke ultimately struck Manny out. Alan Embree came in to pitch the ninth, and after the Red Sox got the leadoff man on, he induced a double-play and finished out the inning with no further incident.

Say what you want about the A’s this year, but they hung in there during the entire series against the Red Sox, and not only were the games close, but they played well. I’m seeing a lot of positive things about this team, and small sample size notwithstanding, the A’s look better than I had originally pictured. Take that for what it’s worth, but I’m excited to finish up this series next week.

Final Score: A’s 5, Boston 1
Winning Pitcher: Rich Harden
Losing Pitcher: Jon Lester

The A’s now fly home for a weekend series (Spring Training) against the Giants, and they resume their regular season campaign against the Red Sox on Tuesday night. We will see you back here on AN for all the action, this time at a more reasonable time of day.

It has been fun, though. Thanks for sharing the middle of the night games with AN!