With his two-hit, three-RBI performance, Ortiz, who has said he will retire at season’s end, provided starter David Price will all the backing he would need.
It wasn’t all he got, however, as the Boston bats piled on late, scoring four to go ahead in the fifth before adding 10 more in the final four. In relief of starter Andrew Triggs, who was lifted with back tightness after the first inning, Zach Neal suffered the loss being slugged for four runs in 3-2/3.
The Red Sox (75-59) have now scored 56 runs in four matchups with the A’s (57-77) this season.
Manager Bob Melvin said that the inability of his pitching staff, who combined to throw 211 pitches, to get ahead in counts served as the greatest factor in the large loss:
“When you get behind in counts, and you get guys on base, and you do it in multiple innings they end up making you pay. They’re first in the league in runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, everything.”
Ortiz opened the scoring in the first, singling in shortstop Xander Bogaerts who reached on an error by his opposite number Marcus Semien. Triggs (ND, 1-1, 4.31 ERA), who now boasts a 2.78 ERA since returning to the starting rotation on August 11, held the Red Sox to the lone unearned run but was removed after reporting tightness in his lower back.
He said that while his lower back originally “flared for the first time a few weeks ago,” the pain did not bother him until he attempted to run down a foul-pop off the bat of Bogaerts:
“I’m hoping that it’s something that will be resolved pretty quickly, here. … It’s one of those things I’m going to have to keep an eye on.”
Neal (L, 2-4, 5.33 ERA) was tagged with an unearned run of his own, after right fielder Brett Eibner misplayed a single by Dustin Pedroia. A passed ball credited to catcher Matt Mcbride in the eighth gave way to a third unearned Red Sox run.
The Oakland offense was able to put together one rally against Price (W, 14-8, 3.92 ERA), scoring a pair to tie the game in the fourth. RBIs from Billy Butler, on a sacrifice-fly line-out to center, and Stephen Vogt, on a line-drive double rifled into the right-field corner, were enough to tie the game and get Triggs, who was rewarded with his first career win in his previous start, off the hook.
Boston jumped all over Neal, who came one out short of a shut-down inning in the fifth, collecting five hits and four runs after two outs had been recorded in the frame.
Price, who finished tossing seven four-hit frames, held the line there.
Despite the run support, he said he went after the A’s hitters as if the game was riding on each pitch, saying that it is the only mindset he can afford to have in the heat of a postseason race:
“If you go out there and throw fastballs — and throw stuff down the middle of the plate — and hope they hit it at guys, your next start you’re going to be in a 2-1 game, it’s going to be close … so I want to treat every game as if it’s 0-0, no matter what the score is.”
Led by a three-hit, five-RBI showing from third baseman Travis Shaw, who crushed the game’s only home run (15), the Red Sox added six in the sixth, then three more in the eighth to remove all doubt.
Taking his first big league at-bat, the switch-hitting infielder drew a walk and scored from first in the next half-inning. In the same frame, Oakland rookie Joey Wendle poked a single to center for his first big-league hit, one of six for the green and gold.
“In a game like that, you’re always looking for some bright sides. … He looks like he’s got a little bit of length to (his swing) — looks like he can hit some balls hard up the middle.”
The A’s will have a chance to bounce back against the Beantowners when the two teams go at it again in a Saturday night showdown.