With their 11-2 win Saturday night, the Red Sox (76-59) now boast a 67-19 run differential in five games against the A’s (57-78) this season.
American League Cy Young Award front-runner Rick Porcello was the recipient of the latest massive commitment of Red-Sock run support. He did not need it all, however, carrying a perfect game into the sixth inning, though he was saddled with the entirety of the Oakland offense.
Minor-league journeyman Chris Smith was able to shut off the faucet on the Beantown bats, albeit far too late, tossing 4 innings with one run crossing and holding the Sox to their lowest run total against the green and gold this season.
Manager Bob Melvin said that the explosiveness of the Sox stems from their patience and feistiness — something that used to inhabit his own clubhouse:
“Teams that take a lot of pitches, and make you throw a lot of pitches, it’s like a boxer — it’s just body-blows, and body-blows and then they get in a good one. That’s really what they do. We had teams like that a few years ago, too.”
Daniel Mengden (L, 1-6, 6.66 ERA) took it to the chin early, suffering the worst drubbing of his young career with seven runs allowed (all earned) in 2-2/3 innings pitched. He served up eight hits and walked two, the Red Sox providing gunpowder on Oakland’s second to last fireworks night of the year.
Mengden’s rough night began immediately as the Sox scored a pair, four batters into the game, with Mookie Betts sending a screaming liner over the head of Khris Davis and off the wall just below the out-of-town scoreboard in left field.
Sending 11 batters to the plate in the third, despite the first two making outs, the visitors gave the largely red-clad crowd of 30,000 much to cheer about pushing seven more across.
Of the rally, which saw eight-straight Boston hitters reach, Mengden said it was a matter of him falling behind:
“Just not executing. I (got) ahead of the first two guys, and got some weak contact, then I fell behind. … They’re a good hitting team and if you give them an opportunity they’re going to take it and run with it.”
Leading the way for the Boston onslaught was David Ortiz, who was lifted in the eighth inning after going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Hanley Ramirez contributed home run No. 20, a solo shot, while rookie Yoan Moncada collected the first hits (2) and RBI of his career. The offense came from throughout the Red Sox lineup, however, with each starter reaching base, and either scoring or driving in at least one run.
For all their offense, Major League Baseball’s first 19-game winner Porcello (W, 19-3, 3.23 ERA) was the biggest star of the night. After suffering loud contact in the form of line-drive outs from both Marcus Semien and Stephen Vogt in the first, the righty coasted through five frames facing the minimum.
The A’s first base runner came with one down in the sixth. Rocketing a first-pitch slider, Jake Smolinski was able to get one just out of the reach of a leaping Chris Young for a double, ending the Boston starter’s bid for perfection. Back-up backstop Bruce Maxwell followed hastily with an RBI single for Oakland’s first tally. Yonder Alonso added an RBI single in the eighth.
The skipper said that Porcello’s apporach was different from his team had previously faced from the veteran:
“You think of him as a sinker-baller, but most of his outs were in the air tonight. I think he was pitching, by design, up in the zone a little bit more . We’ve seen that, actually, the last couple nights — pitching up in the cold air, and daring you to hit one out in the big part of the park.”
He finished his 7 frames allowing four hits and both A’s runs. He struck out just two, while walking none.
Working out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam — created largely in part by a Semien error on a double-play grounder — allowing just one unearned run, Smith (0-0, 4.11 ERA) held Boston to fewer than 13 runs for the first time against Oakland this season.
“I can’t say enough about Chris Smith. Not just tonight, certainly tonight was the best we’ve seen. … He’s in a great mood very day, it’s great for the younger guys to see, and on top of that he was very effective tonight.”
The A’s will continue to search for win No. 1 against the 2016 BoSox, in their sixth and final attempt, when the send Kendall Graveman (10-9, 3.96 ERA) to the mound for a Sunday matinée. He will lock horns with Eduardo Rodriguez (2-6, 5.35 ERA).