OAKLAND, Calif. — Red Sox righthander Brandon Workman admitted he was nervous when he made his major league debut against the Seattle Mariners last week.
It showed, too. The first batter hit a home run. Three doubles followed from there as he gave up three runs in a relief appearance.
The Red Sox, undeterred, gave Workman a chance to start against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon. This time, the quiet 24-year-old from Texas showed he could be a major player in the pennant race.
Workman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before an infield hit cost him a chance at history. The Sox went on to lose the game, 3-2 in 11 innings.
If Workman is able to help the Red Sox return to the postseason, the loss will quickly be forgotten. In what has been a season full of surprises, he was the latest player to step forward.
“He gave us an outstanding effort,” manager John Farrell said. “He didn’t show any kind of fear for the situation. He was poised. Very good mound presence. Good composure. Definitely had very good stuff.”
Workman allowed two runs on two hits over his 6 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five. That came without having much of a curveball, a pitch he usually relies heavily on.
“I was able to locate my fastball to both sides of the plate early and kind of worked off that as the game went on,” he said.
Workman knew he had a no-hitter. But his bigger concern was the game. The Sox didn’t score until the sixth inning and led 2-0 into the bottom of the seventh.
“That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to work deep into the game and pitch as long as I could,” Workman said. “Not giving up any hits was great while it lasted.”
Workman’s parents were in the Oakland Coliseum crowd of 31,417 as he came to the mound in the seventh. He was trying to become the first rookie to throw a no-hitter since teammate Clay Buchholz in 2007.
Workman lost the no-hitter when Coco Crisp hit a groundball up the middle destined for center field. Dustin Pedroia dove for the ball like a swimmer leaving the starting blocks and stopped it.
Pedroia got his feet in a flash, but his throw was too late to catch the speedy Crisp.
“Thought I had a chance,” Pedroia said. “But Coco, he’s too fast.”
Said Workman: “I thought it was a base hit up the middle. I can’t believe he got to that ball. I thought it was going all the way to center field for sure. That was unbelievable.”
After Crisp’s single, Workman got an out. Josh Donaldson was going to be his last hitter regardless.
Workman left a 3-and-2 fastball, his 103rd pitch, over the plate and Donaldson hit the mammoth home run to center, the ball striking the facing of the football luxury suites.
“He hit it pretty well,” said Workman, who had not thrown more than 100 pitches in a game this season.
Donaldson later won the game with a bloop single in the 11th inning off Matt Thornton.
Farrell was tempted to take Workman out after Crisp’s hit. But he felt the rookie could handle Donaldson, who had struck out in his previous at-bat.
“In retrospect, there’s no second-guessing on my part as far as the matchup in that situation,” Farrell said.
Workman retired the first 18 batters in order. The only blemish was a walk to John Jaso in the fourth inning. But Workman struck out Donaldson and catcher Ryan Lavarnway threw out Jaso stealing second.
Lavarnway, who caught Workman once in the minors, marveled at the righthander’s approach.
“It was beautiful to catch him,” Lavarnway said. “He did a great job. He did everything we asked him to.”
See the Globe tomorrow for more on Workman and the Sox game.