What is with us blowing the nailbiters all of a sudden? It’s not healthy that we can’t preserve narrow leads, especially if we insist on not scoring that many runs. Preserving narrow leads is a skill that any bullpen should possess. Of course, as I said, it helps when it’s a skill your bullpen possesses that you don’t have to use very often because the lead isn’t narrow all the time, but the point is that, if there is a narrow lead, we should be able to walk away with the win more often than not.
Lester started and pitched very well. He gave up only one run on four hits in six and two-thirds innings while walking one and striking out nine. That one run was the result of a solo shot hit on Lester’s third pitch of the game by Coco Crisp of all people. The first inning in general wasn’t great; he put two more runners on the bases in the process of ending it, and he threw thirty-one pitches before it was over. Other than that, Lester was solid gold, and you can tell by the low hit and walk totals and high strikeout total that he had a classic, Lester-esque night.
After that first inning, it was mostly lights-out for Oakland, at least on Lester’s watch. He had a one-two-three second, third, and fourth. He gave up a single in the fifth, had a one-two-three sixth, and then allowed a single but recorded the first two outs of the inning in the seventh before he was replaced by Padilla, who ended the inning with a strikeout.
Lester was pretty consistent throughout the game and certainly had a rhythm going. His inning pitch counts ranged between ten (in the sixth) and fifteen (in the fourth), and his cut fastball was as nasty as ever. His sinker and changeup were also brutal, while his curveball was just decent, which was fine because he didn’t throw too many of them anyway. As for his strikeouts, all but one were swinging.
Padilla pitched the eighth, and Aceves came on to pitch the ninth. Meanwhile, our hitters hadn’t done much, as I already suggested. We did answer Crisp’s solo shot with one of our own in the very next inning. Salty went yard on the fourth pitch of the at-bat, a changeup down and in. He golfed it into the second deck in right. And it was Bartolo Colon who gave it up, so that felt pretty good.
We took the lead in the fourth. After two singles and two outs, Salty reached on an error that also allowed Papi to score.
And the score remained 2-1 until Aceves fired the third pitch of his fourth at-bat in the ninth inning, when Brandon Moss singled in one. Kalish made an error, which allowed the winning run to advance to third. The error was painful to watch. Kalish charged a fly ball that was coming down fast, and he bobbled it. He just bobbled it. It’s one of those errors that looks so amateurish and therefore completely humiliating. Crisp, again, hit the sac fly that established the final score was 3-2.
In reality, we should have expected something like it given how the top of the ninth went down. Kalish singled, and Aviles walked. So we had runners on first and second with nobody out. Punto showed bunt but completely messed it up and turned it into a double play. Then Kalish was caught trying to steal third base and that was the end of it.
So it was the hitters’ responsibility to not mess up the top of the ninth, but if they really insisted on doing that, then it was our closer’s responsibility not to blow the one-run lead. Anyway, if we don’t win today, we’ll have been swept. I would rather avoid that. Preferably with some sort of slugfest where we score a whole bunch of runs, just to get even.