Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was perfect in 2007. Oakland closer Huston Street was perfect against the Red Sox in his career. Only one of those streaks remained intact last night.
Papelbon endured his first blown save, giving up a game-tying, two-run home run to Oakland rookie Travis Buck in the ninth inning, and Brendan Donnelly gave up back-to-back doubles to Mike Piazza and Dan Johnson in the 10th as the Athletics dropped the Sox, 5-4, before a crowd of 37,052 in Fenway Park.
Spoiled by Papelbon? "We all are," said Sox starter Curt Schilling, who was three outs away from his fourth win until the Athletics dented Papelbon, who had not allowed a run in his first eight appearances this season (9 1/3 innings) but labored through a 35-pitch ninth, a total he exceeded only twice last season, both in multiple-inning outings.
"We had the best record in the big leagues in April and I don't think we have any complete games," said Schilling, who gave up two runs in seven innings, the first on a Johnson home run, and thought he was home free after what he termed a "game-saving catch" by Coco Crisp in the seventh and a 1-2-3 inning from Hideki Okajima in the eighth.
"Our bullpen has been phenomenal," Schilling added. "No matter how well you line it up, this is the big leagues. It doesn't always work out the way you want it to."
Street, meanwhile, cut through the heart of the Sox order -- David Ortiz, Manny Ramírez, and Kevin Youkilis (J.D. Drew was out with "viral symptoms") -- to save the Athletics' win, just their second in six games. Street has faced the Sox seven times, and they have yet to score against him.
They couldn't score in the ninth against former Sox prospect Justin Duchscherer, either, despite a one-out double by Eric Hinske and an intentional walk to pinch hitter Alex Cora, as Duchscherer got ground outs from Julio Lugo and Crisp.
Donnelly, meanwhile, was summoned in a meaningful inning -- something the Angels rarely gave him last season, much to his annoyance -- and was unable to deliver.
Piazza, a 12-time All-Star playing for an American League team for the first time after 14 seasons in the National League, doubled to the gap in left-center and scored when Johnson shot a ground-ball double down the right-field line.
"What do you want me to say?" Donnelly said. "I threw a bad pitch to Piazza, I missed by about 3 feet, and he let me know about it. A leadoff double in extra innings is never a good design.
"The next guy, I thought he was going to bunt. When he showed he wasn't, the count was in his favor [3 and 1]. I made a pretty decent pitch, but I've faced him a lot and he's a pretty good hitter.
"They jumped on me immediately, and before I knew what was going on, boom, we were losing the game."
Eight times this season, the first batter Donnelly has faced has gone out. Not this time.
"That's huge," he said. "Get the first guy out in the inning, it obviously becomes a third easier. You try to get every hitter out, but especially in an extra-inning game, a close game, you really want to attack the first guy and retire him. It's simple math."
Crisp, who landed on his head in the Sox bullpen last month in a futile attempt to catch an Alex Rodriguez homer, paid no heed to a sore left side in making an all-out dive for Todd Walker's sinking liner in the seventh, making a catch that kept an Oakland rally from becoming a conflagration against Schilling.
Up to that point, Schilling had allowed only a home run by Johnson and had overcome some earlier jeopardy created by an overzealous ballboy, who fielded a ball in play in the fifth, leading to a ground-rule double and runners on second and third.
Schilling got out of that one by retiring Eric Chavez on a checked-swing third strike that led to the ejection of first-year manager Bob Geren.
But in the seventh, Schilling gave up a leadoff double to Buck and a base hit to Jason Kendall, placing runners on the corners with no outs.
Former Sox second baseman Walker, sent to the plate as a pinch hitter by former Sox coach Rene Lachemann, hit a line drive headed for no man's land in left-center. But Crisp, who was on the move at contact, closed ground rapidly and flung himself at the ball, which he gloved backhanded while landing heavily on his left shoulder and side. He executed a roll and got up throwing as Buck came home with the second run.
"I'm fine," said Crisp, who only last Friday returned from missing five games with a strained left oblique muscle. "I didn't go in for ice. I'll go home, go to sleep, and when I get up tomorrow, I think I'll get up and go get a gym membership."
Play with caution? That's not going to happen, said Crisp, who beat out an infield single in a three-run first inning in which the Sox had four hits off starter Joe Blanton, none hit with authority, and a sacrifice fly by Ramírez. Crisp's speed led to Boston's fourth run, when he walked and went from first to third on Ramírez's single to center, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Youkilis.
"You kind of know what the consequences are going to be before you do something," he said. "Like ski jumping. There are a lot of guys -- Mikey Lowell, Youkilis -- who put in valiant efforts. There's a lot of heart on this team. Nobody is really scared to get hurt. You go out and play. When you play scared, that's when you normally get hurt."
The combination of Schilling (7 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 0 BB, 7 K), Okajima, and Papelbon appeared far too potent for a crippled Oakland team that came in averaging the fewest runs per game (3.8) in the AL; had seven players on the disabled list, including four outfielders; and had only one player in the lineup with as many as three home runs.
That all changed when Bobby Crosby singled and Buck, a first-round sandwich pick in 2005 who began last season in Single A, lofted a fly ball on an 0-and-2 fastball that drifted just out of the reach of the right fielder, Eric Hinske, and fell into the seats.
"He's [upset] right now," Donnelly said of Papelbon, "but when the sun comes up tomorrow, it's another game. That's why he's so good."