This matchup between two of the top teams in the American League lived up to its billing, although it looked hairy for the Boston Red Sox through the first two games. After dropping games one and two of the three-game set without much offense to speak of, the bats woke up in game three to allow the Sox to claim the finale, and ultimately avoid being swept.
In the first game, A’s starter Chris Bassitt settled down after allowing the Sox to jump out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning to let his team get back into the game. Nate Eovaldi threw six innings, only giving up one run, before handing the game over to the bullpen. Unfortunately, Darwinzon Hernandez was unable to keep it a tie game, giving up two runs that would prove to be the difference. Although Rafael Devers homered in the bottom of the 7th to make it a one run game again, and the Sox got the tying run to third in the bottom of the ninth, Christian Vazquez fouled out to end the comeback attempt, and Boston lost the opener 3-2.
Game two of the series started off similarly to the first, with Boston taking an early 1-0 lead, this time courtesy of a bases-loaded walk by Vazquez. From there, though, the A’s quickly took over, and moved one game away from sweeping the Sox, something that hadn’t happened since the first series of the year. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez suffered his first loss of the season, giving up all four runs the A’s would score in their 4-1 win over his six innings. Although the A’s only got eight hits for the game, they made them count. The biggest of all was Matt Olson’s blast in the sixth inning that really sealed the coffin for the Sox. Boston’s bats stayed quiet, with only five hits for the game and just their first inning run to show for in the loss.
Staring down the barrel of a sweep, the Sox turned to one of the biggest surprises on the squad so far: Garrett Richards. After talk of Richards being taken out of the rotation following his early season struggles, he’s been a revelation for Boston his last few trips to the mound. He put up six scoreless innings, shutting down the A’s lineup for long enough to let the Sox lineup jump out to a big lead. Boston scored three runs in each of the first two innings, with most of the damage coming via the long ball. Xander Bogaerts hit one off the foul pole in the first inning, before Bobby Dalbec demolished one to dead center in the second. By the time the A’s managed to get a run across, in the eighth inning, Boston already had an 8-0 lead and the game was over. After costing them the game in the opener, the bullpen responded well over the next two days, throwing six total innings while only allowing one run. Grabbing at least one win from this series was certainly a must, and Boston managed to do it with one of their better offensive performances against a quality team in the final game of the series.
While going 1-2 in any three-game series isn’t what you look for, the Sox easily could have been 2-1 if they had managed to pull off the comeback in the first game, and we’d be looking at this series totally differently. While the scoreboard, and the results, are what matter in the end, it’s also important to look at the process of getting there. Even in the two losses, there are positives. Obviously, in game one they were one hit from sending the game to extras or even winning, and in the second game the bullpen responded nicely after Hernandez’ struggles the night before. While the final score may not have been what the Sox wanted, the A’s are a very good team, and with their pitching and balanced lineup, they’re certainly a tough team to beat. This series result keeps Boston in first place in the AL East, somewhere few media members thought they would be as we near the middle of May, with a 1.5 game cushion over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Coming off their offensive explosion in game three, Boston has to feel good going into their next series, a matchup with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels have been struggling recently, only 3-7 in their last ten. However, no team with the best player in baseball can be overlooked, and the Boston pitching staff will have to keep pitching at the level they have for the majority of the season if they want to come away with a series victory.
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