The Red Sox were unable to complete their three-game sweep of the Athletics at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon. Boston instead fell to Oakland by a final score of 4-3 to put its three-game winning streak come to an end and drop to 34-30 on the season.
Rich Hill, making his 12th start of the year for the Sox, allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work.
All three runs the veteran left-hander gave up came in the top half of the third. The Athletics’ rally began when Cristian Pache reached base on a one-out popup to shallow center field that was not caught by a back-tracking Trevor Story. It was ruled a double and was immediately followed by an RBI single off the bat of Chad Pinder that got Oakland on the board first.
A hard-hit double from Ramon Laureano put runners at second and third for Christian Bethancourt, who drove in both on a two-run single to left field. Hill did not falter, though, as he proceeded to sit down 10 of the next 11 batters he faced before yielding a two-out single to Seth Brown in the sixth inning.
That would mark the end of Hill’s afternoon as he got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora. The 42-year-old southpaw finished with a final pitch count of 82 (61 strikes) and induced eight swings-and-misses with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 30 times.
In relief of Hill, Hirokazu Sawamura received the first call out of the Boston bullpen while inheriting one runner in Brown. A passed ball allowed that runner to advance to second and he proceeded to score from there on an Elvis Andrus line drive that went through the legs of Rafael Devers.
Sawamura got through the rest of the inning unscathed, but the Red Sox found themselves trailing 4-1 heading into their half of the sixth. To that point in the contest, the Boston lineup had been held in check by Oakland right-hander Paul Blackburn despite having a fair share of scoring opportunities.
Jarren Duran led off the first inning with a drag bunt single and advanced to third on a one-out single from J.D. Martinez. Neither runner scored. A pair of singles from Franchy Cordero and Jackie Bradley Jr. put runners on the corners with two outs in the third for Duran, who struck out swinging.
The Sox finally prevailed in the third, as Devers drew a leadoff walk and later scored from third on an RBI groundout off the bat of Xander Bogaerts. They could have gotten more in the frame, but both Alex Verdugo and Story were retired to extinguish the threat.
An inning later, the A’s elected to intentionally walk Devers with two outs, which loaded the bases for Martinez. Martinez, however, softly grounded out to Blackburn himself to end things in the fourth.
Blackburn compiled his first 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, but ran into more trouble in the sixth when he gave up a one-out single to Christian Vazquez. That prompted a pitching change as A.J. Puk was dispatched from the Athletics bullpen. Puk got Bradley Jr. to ground into a force out at second to snuff out the lead runner, then fanned the pinch-hitting Bobby Dalbec on three straight heaters.
After Ryan Brasier made quick work of Oakland in the top of the seventh, Boston had another prime opportunity in the latter half of the frame. Devers was plunked by a pitch and Bogaerts roped a one-out single to put runner at first and second. Matched up against new A’s reliever Zach Jackson, Verdugo flew out to center field and Story punched out on a 3-2, 87 mph slider to end the inning.
Hansel Robles worked his way around a ground-rule double in an otherwise clean eighth inning. In the bottom of the eighth, the pinch-hitting Rob Refsnyder led off with a line-drive single off Sam Moll. Vazquez followed by drawing a walk. Bradley Jr. and Dalbec each recorded outs, but Devers kept the inning alive by reaching on a fielding error committed by A’s third baseman Jonah Bride.
Refsnyder scored on the play. Martinez then greeted new reliever Dany Jimenez by lacing an RBI single back up the middle. It scored Vazquez and very well could have scored the tying run in Devers were it not for the efforts of second baseman Tony Kemp.
Kemp prevented the ball from rolling into center field, which forced Devers — representing the tying run — to hold up at third base. Following a mound visit, Bogaerts grounded into a force out to put an end to the inning with the Red Sox still trailing 4-3.
The score would remain that way after Tyler Danish sat down the side in order in the top half of the ninth. Down to their final three outs in the bottom half, Verdugo, Story, and Refsnyder went down quietly as 4-3 would go on to be Thursday’s final score.
All told, the Red Sox lineup went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runers on base as a team. It was a particularly tough day for Story, who went 0-for-5 with three punchouts and three runners left on base. The second baseman is hitting just .143 (4-for-28) over his last seven games.
Next up: Wainwright vs. Wacha
The Red Sox will look to win another series as they welcome the Cardinals into town for the first time since 2017 on Friday night. In the first of a three-game weekend set, it will be right-hander Michael Wacha getting the start for Boston and fellow righty Adam Wainwright doing the same for St. Louis.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Trevor Story: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)