Well, this game took on shades of ’07 for me, as the A’s put together yet another brilliant starting pitching performance against the defending World Champs, and couldn’t get a single run across the plate to compete in this game.
Both Blanton yesterday and Harden today were MORE than good enough to put themselves in line for a win, but the A’s offense failed to get up off the deck for either one of them. I liked today’s lineup too, on paper; Mike Sweeney, Jack Cust, and Emil Brown filled the power spots, and the Travis Buck, the early leadoff black hole, was given the day off.
It didn’t seem to matter. Much like Dice K yesterday, Lester absolutely stifled the A’s for seven plus innings, throwing zeros across the board behind three hits and three walks. The A’s patented double-play train didn’t help, erasing nearly all of their early baserunners.
Barton, Emil, Suzuki and Hannahan picked up the lone four hits for the A’s, and because I didn’t say it yesterday; I’ll say it today: Hannahan looks great in the field. The A’s had a runner on to start both the seventh and the eighth innings, but Crosby was at the plate with a 3-1 count for one, and Dan Johnson pinch-hit for the overmatched Norfie for the other. Enough said.
On the pitching side, James Richard Harden was brilliant again, recovering nicely from the worst first inning situation possible in baseball: Bases loaded. Manny up. No one out. A’s fans everywhere ducking and covering.
However, he escaped the jam nicely, and went on to throw 86 pitches (no, I’m not going to speculate about his low pitch-count; I’m assuming that most of those pitches where thrown under stress); allowing four hits, four walks, and striking out six over five innings without surrendering a single run. The A’s pitchers continued their Houdini routine until the seventh, when Boston finally broke through against Alan Embree, who gave up a 2-run homerun to the no-longer-dormant Ortiz.
Lenny DiNardo secured the loss by allowing Boston to connect on four consecutive hits in the eighth, leaving the bases loaded for Casilla with one run in. Casilla promptly allowed another consecutive single for Boston’s fourth run, but then shut down the heart of the lineup by striking out Ortiz and getting Manny to ground into a double play, leaving the score at 4-0 until Street came in to give up a homerun to Varitek. Keep a close eye on Street; there have been many comments about missing velocity.
But in the end, it didn’t really matter if the pitching was great or terrible, since the Red Sox would have won with a single run today, making this the only game in the four-game set that the A’s were really and truly blown-out, despite losing three. Tough start to the Oakland homestand; the A’s offense has gone missing.
Frustrating for us, yes, but the A’s will score some runs. Some of the young hitters will figure things out, and the overall bat speeds will increase. Hang in there.
The A’s start a new series on Friday night at 7:05 against Cleveland. Duchscherer will make his first start.