By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND–On Saturday, the A’s were Murderer’s Row. On Sunday, the same nine guys populated the starting lineup, but the collective was something far less, the difference between an easy win the first day, and a lopsided loss the next.
The change? The A’s defense took a rest.
Aided by three Oakland errors and several misplays, the Red Sox rebounded, avoiding a four-game sweep with a 12-3 whipping of the A’s at the Coliseum.
“Coming in here you say, ‘Give us three of four, we’ll take it.’ Granted, once you win three games, you get greedy and want to win the last game,” manager Bob Melvin said. “And it felt like we had them on the run a little bit. And then they get the lead, and we come back and take the lead again, and you feel pretty good. But they were pretty persistent today.”
Persistence was the sum of 15 Red Sox base hits, four stolen bases and a trio of two-out RBI knocks, more than enough to overcome the A’s brief 3-2 lead after four innings. Boston would take the lead for good with two runs in the fifth. They added on with two in the sixth, one in the eighth, and five more in the ninth.
Eduardo Rodriguez pitched a season-best eight innings, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk, to grab the win. Rodriguez shedded the hard luck label he’s worn thus far this season as five of his previous eight starts left him with a no-decision. For Red Sox Nation, likely inconsolable after three straight losses, Rodriguez was everything and more for a rotation that hasn’t had David Price all season, and has watched Rick Porcello struggle.
“We’ve seen it now on this road trip (in) the two starts for Eddie,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of his starting pitcher. “It’s been the fifth and sixth innings have been keys for him where we’ve scored, he’s gone out and had quick innings, shutdown innings. And I think that’s been huge for him in his evolution as a pitcher.”
A’s starter Andrew Triggs didn’t pitch poorly, but his inability to slow Boston on the basepaths cost him, as much as the ragged defense behind him.
In the sixth, Triggs allowed a two-run shot to Mitch Moreland, the 19th time the former Texas Ranger has homered against the A’s in his career. Earlier, the second batter of the game, Dustin Pedroia hit a bloop single down the line, but it turned into much more when Mark Canha fielded it in right, spun towards second base and threw the ball to no one. That allowed Pedroia to take second base, and allowed baserunner Mookie Betts to score the game’s first run from first base.
Chad Pinder would misplay a grounder in the second, and catcher Josh Phegley later unleashed a poor throw, increasing the A’s errors to a major league-worst 42.
Triggs walked three as well, and didn’t do much of a job holding runners on base. Those missteps had Boston running at every opportunity, and as a result the A’s saw their AL-worst total in opponents’ stolen bases jump to 38.
“Today, I was being a little bit too fine. I let guys get on base, and then from there you’re not wanting to let things to compound like they did on the Moreland homer,” Triggs said. “I was trying to be a little bit too fine.”
The homering A’s made a cameo appearance in the fourth when Chad Pinder went deep for the second straight day. Pinder’s two-run shot wasn’t the once-in-a-generational bomb he hit Saturday, but it came off Rodriguez, who dealt other than that moment, and gave the A’s a lead.
For Melvin, the issue is simple. His A’s lead the AL in home runs with 64 after 44 games, but of the team’s top seven home run threats, five are below average defenders. All five–Trevor Plouffe, Ryon Healy, Khris Davis, Pinder and Canha–were in the A’s lineup on Sunday when the errors, mental gaffes and miscues snowballed.
Jed Lowrie and Yonder Alonso, the two plus defenders on the list, will occasionally lose playing time to Pinder and Healy, due to the latter pair’s youth and promise. In the short run, that factor also weakens the A’s defense.
A lot to ponder for Melvin and Billy Beane as they chart the direction of the team.
On Tuesday, the A’s resume their homestand against the Miami Marlins with Jessie Hahn facing the Marlins’ Jose Urena at 7:05 pm.