Red Sox rally past A’s to avoid sweep
OAKLAND – Four straight walks by Josh Beckett early in the game had Boston manager Terry Francona slightly concerned. It could have been a long day for the bullpen.
Instead, Beckett settled down nicely – and his team came from behind to win.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Kalish hit a go-ahead two-run single in the sixth, J.D. Drew had a two-run double one batter earlier and the Red Sox rallied for a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
Beckett (5-4) turned to his secondary pitches to get on track after a rocky start as Boston avoided its first sweep by the A’s since May 23-25, 2008. The Red Sox have been swept in the series only three times in the last 18 years.
“Beckett, that was kind of a weird outing,” Francona said. “Five walks, but four in a row. You’re kind of on the edge of your seat after the third inning.”
Dallas Braden (9-12), still trying to reach double digits in wins for the first time in his career, lost his third straight start. All the damage came in that tough sixth inning. The left-hander also struggled with location, walking four after issuing two or fewer walks in each of his previous 20 starts.
“The story today was I provided a nice walkathon for them,” Braden said. “It was just gross. I don’t ever complain on balls and strikes because I’m a big believer that that stuff evens out over the course of a season, but today was bad. Period.”
Oakland’s Coco Crisp stole six bases in the series against his former team, including his career-high 29th and 30th on Sunday.
The Red Sox added an insurance run in the eighth on pitcher Jerry Blevins’ wild throw past first trying to get Drew on a single. That allowed pinch-runner Josh Reddick to score.
Before the sixth, “we weren’t doing anything,” Francona said.
Boston won for only the fifth time in its last 13 road games. The Red Sox still have three games in Seattle starting Monday to conclude their second-to-last trip of the year.
Jonathan Papelbon worked a perfect ninth with three called strikeouts for his 36th save in 43 chances, pitching for the first time in seven days. He threw 48 pitches in his career-high seventh blown save and loss to the White Sox on Sept. 5.
Daric Barton was ejected after making the final out by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt for arguing the called third strike.
“I know some guys weren’t very happy about it, but you have to make adjustments,” Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki said of the strike zone. “There’s no mystery to it: If he’s going to call it, you have to swing.”
Crisp got his 29th steal in the third for a new career high, topping his 28 for the Red Sox in 2007. He stole No. 30 in the sixth – and on a day Hall of Fame speedster and Crisp mentor Rickey Henderson gave a pushup demonstration in the clubhouse pregame to show he still has it at 51.
This marked the first time the Red Sox gave up six steals to an A’s player since Henderson had six from July 2-4, 1984.
Mark Ellis hit a two-run double in the fifth to put the A’s up 3-0. Ellis extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games with an infield single in the second.
Cliff Pennington hit a two-out triple in the bottom of the sixth after the Red Sox took the lead, but Oakland couldn’t capitalize.
Beckett ran into trouble in the third, when he walked four straight batters and issued Jack Cust’s free pass to force in the first run of the game.
“I think I should only have walked three of them,” Beckett said, questioning one of the walks but not specifying.
After Kurt Suzuki drew a walk for Beckett’s third consecutive base on balls, he received a mound visit from pitching coach John Farrell. Then catcher Victor Martinez came out to chat during Cust’s plate appearance.
Yet Beckett got out of the inning without further damage, retiring Ellis on a called third strike and Jeremy Hermida on a liner.
“After you get out of something like that, it’s easy to take a deep breath and get back to what you know works,” Beckett said. “I don’t think rhythm would be the right word, just battling.”
It was the first time he walked so many in one inning since issuing five walks in the top of the first on Sept. 23, 2004, while with Florida against Philadelphia – but those didn’t all come in order. He walked four in a row for the first time in his career.
Beckett allowed three runs on five hits in six innings, struck out seven and walked five to win for the first time in three starts. He had lost two of his last three decisions but was coming off a season-best nine-strikeout performance in a no-decision against the White Sox his last time out.
“A lot of it is perspective,” Francona said. “If we didn’t score, the first question is, ‘What’s wrong with Beckett?'”
The right-hander has allowed three or fewer earned runs in each of his last seven outings against Oakland, four of those at the Coliseum.
NOTES: Marco Scutaro again started at 2B for the Red Sox. Francona doesn’t plan to use him every day at SS for the rest of the season because of his troublesome right shoulder. … The A’s won the season series (5-4) for the first time since going 7-3 in 2006, Oakland’s last playoff season.
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