Oakland keeps Red Sox at bay
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Red Sox are staying in San Francisco this week, just off Powell Street, where the cable cars rattle their way through traffic. The team stays across the bay, rather than in Oakland, for the scenery, though the best sight for them was supposed to be that of the A's, a team that was 1-11 since May 2, winless in eight straight, and winless in nine straight vs. Boston.
But left fielder Matt Watson, who was playing in the minor leagues until Saturday, delivered a game-winning, two-run single in the eighth inning off Mike Timlin, propelling the A's to a 6-4 win last night before 30,281 at McAfee Coliseum. Watson said he was looking for a cutter in, got his pitch, and delivered.
The Sox tied a season high by leaving 13 men on base. They left the bases loaded with no outs in the fourth inning and with one out in the seventh.
''We just couldn't get one big hit to get ourselves the lead," manager Terry Francona said.
Lefthanded reliever Mike Myers, 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 4 2/3 innings coming in, took the loss. Eric Chavez singled off Myers to begin the eighth, and Erubiel Durazo followed with a shot up the middle. Myers showed superb reflexes to knock the ball down as the bat, broken in three pieces, sprayed in his direction. But the ball skipped off Myers's glove, and when he got to it, he was too rushed to make a good throw to first.
Timlin came in, and, after a sacrifice and an intentional walk, Watson delivered the winning hit.
Mark Bellhorn had given the Sox a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the second inning, scoring Trot Nixon (single) and Kevin Youkilis (walk).
Depending upon your perspective, Oakland starter Kirk Saarloos either worked expertly out of a major jam in the fourth inning, or the Sox failed to deliver in a situation in which it's fairly difficult not to score. Boston loaded the bases with no outs on singles by Jason Varitek, Youkilis, and Bill Mueller.
Bellhorn, behind 0-and-2, worked the count full and fouled off a total of five pitches before fanning on a breaking ball. Johnny Damon also whiffed, with a bad swing at a breaking ball. Edgar Renteria then flied to center, leaving the bases loaded.
The A's roughed up Sox starter Bronson Arroyo in the fifth for as many earned runs (four) as he'd allowed in his previous three starts combined. Oakland batted around, beginning with a laced Scott Hatteberg grounder that evaded Mueller. Watson followed with a lined double to the warning track in center field that Damon misjudged. After recording an out, Arroyo hit the No. 9 hitter, Charles Thomas, with a curveball -- one of two batters he would hit in the inning -- to load the bases.
''I hit him in the knee with a breaking ball," Arroyo said. ''That put me in a bad position."
Mark Kotsay followed Thomas's at-bat with a bases-clearing triple off the base of the right-field wall, vaulting Oakland to a 3-2 lead.
''I threw him a real slow one, hoping for a popup to try to keep [Hatteberg] at third base," Arroyo said. ''It didn't work out."
Nixon wasn't close to making a play on the ball, which may or may not have been because of his unspecified leg injury. Nixon, before the game, said he didn't want to discuss his injury, though it's something that led Francona to replace Nixon in the field late in Saturday's game at Seattle. He wore a giant ice pack on his left knee postgame.
Jason Kendall scored Kotsay on a hard ground out to Renteria, who was in on the grass and eyeing a throw home until the ball hit him in the chest on an in-between hop. That made it 4-2 Oakland.
''I think he's human," Francona said of Arroyo's four-run fifth inning. ''He's been so good. He nicked the No. 9 hitter, right in the middle of the inning. It didn't help."
With Myers taking the loss, Arroyo remained unbeaten in eight starts (4-0), with a 3.21 ERA. This was his last start before he serves a six-game suspension beginning today. Following the Kendall ground out, Arroyo allowed a Chavez double and hit Durazo on the leg. The righthander then got Keith Ginter to pop out to end the fifth. Had Ginter reached, Myers was coming in to face the lefthanded-hitting Hatteberg. By getting that out, Arroyo delayed Myers's appearance. Arroyo came back out for the sixth and seventh and faced only three batters in cruising through each inning.
Oakland manager Ken Macha, under intense scrutiny and possibly in his last days as the team's skipper, elected to hook Saarloos after six innings in favor of Keiichi Yabu, who was slated to start tomorrow opposite David Wells.
In the seventh, Yabu gave up a leadoff double to Bellhorn, walked Damon, surrendered a sharp Renteria single to left that loaded the bases, and coughed up a two-run double off the left-center field wall by David Ortiz. That tied it, 4-4, and was Ortiz's league-leading 14th double.
Yabu struck out Manny Ramirez, then intentionally walked Nixon to load the bases for Jason Varitek with one out. Yabu struck out Varitek swinging on a nasty breaking ball that had Varitek lunging. Youkilis then grounded to short.
Mueller flied out to end the game, with Nixon and Kevin Millar in scoring position.