The Athletics put together one of their best comebacks this season against one of the stingiest relievers in baseball.
It all fell apart on one pitch to Boston slugger David Ortiz.
Ortiz hit a leadoff home run in the 10th inning after the Red Sox blew a five-run lead in the eighth, and Boston held on to beat Oakland 7-6 on Sunday to avoid a four-game series sweep.
“That’s as hard as we fought all year in what looked like a game we weren’t in for a little while,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s a testament to the fight these guys have. They really never feel like they’re going to lose a game until the last out is made.”
The A’s were on the verge of being blown out before scoring three runs in the eighth. Oakland then homered twice in the ninth against Koji Uehara (3-1). The Red Sox closer had converted 31 consecutive save opportunities dating to 2013.
Just as quickly as Oakland rallied, Boston regained the lead in the 10th.
Ortiz was the only Boston starter without a hit until he lined a 1-2 pitch from Fernando Abad (2-3) over the wall in left-center.
“I really liked the way we came out and swung the bats early (and) we responded again late with David’s big home run,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “This was a hard-fought series. It’s good to salvage one out of it.”
Mike Napoli and David Ross also homered for Boston, which had been limited to two runs or fewer in eight consecutive games. Napoli scored another run as part of a double steal, and former A’s player Jonny Gomes added a two-run single.
“One through nine, they don’t have any weaknesses,” said Oakland starter Tommy Milone, who gave up five runs in five innings.
The A’s started their comeback after Boston starter Jon Lester hit Craig Gentry with a pitch then walked Jed Lowrie with two outs in the eighth.
Burke Badenhop came in and gave up three consecutive RBI singles to make it 6-4 before Andrew Miller got pinch-hitter Coco Crisp to line out to shortstop.
Uehara, who had the longest successful save streak in the majors, blew a shot at extending his impressive run when he yielded home runs by Stephen Vogt and pinch-hitter John Jaso.
The A’s had won five straight before Ortiz’s 17th homer bailed out Boston’s bullpen.
“You saw guys doing everything they could to get it to the next guy,” said Oakland closer Sean Doolittle, who was pressed into duty as a pinch-hitter in the 10th. He grounded out to second base to end the game.
Oakland catcher Derek Norris had to leave the game in the 10th after a frightening situation when he was hit in the side of the head by Gomes’ bat on a follow-through swing. Norris immediately dropped to the ground as home plate Greg Gibson quickly called for A’s trainers.
Norris was eventually helped to his feet and walked to the dugout. He was taken to a hospital as a precaution and was scheduled to undergo a CT scan.
“Ultimately, because the hitters aren’t hitting any shorter of a backswing, I think I’m going to have to make the adjustment,” Norris said. “A tick here and there off mask or the glove is one thing but this one got me in a pretty good part of the head and not the helmet or the mask. For my own health I think I’m just going to have to take a step back.”
Oakland’s late surge negated a strong outing by Lester.
Lester, who had a career-high 15 strikeouts against the A’s earlier this season, allowed two earned runs and four hits over 7 2-3 innings. He struck out four and walked two.
NOTES: Oakland’s last four-game sweep of Boston came in 1971 at Fenway Park. … Blanks left the game after getting thrown out at home in the second. Blanks has been nursing a calf strain and aggravated it while sliding into home plate. … With two days off in the next week, the A’s plan to skip Sonny Gray’s turn in the rotation. Gray, who has yet to pitch a full season in the majors, has already logged a team-leading 99 innings. … It was Oakland’s eighth sellout of the season.
Updated June 22, 2014