OAKLAND — The Boston Red Sox lost this one on a botched bunt that turned into a costly double play.
Two base running blunders in the top of the ninth kept the Red Sox from adding on against the Athletics, who rallied in the bottom half and won on Coco Crisp’s game-ending sacrifice fly in Oakland’s 3-2 victory Tuesday night.
Nick Punto popped up his bunt, first baseman Chris Carter charged in to make a diving catch and threw out Mike Aviles in a close play by covering second baseman Jemile Weeks. Then, Ryan Kalish was caught stealing going for third.
“First and second, no outs in the top of the ninth, that’s where the game was lost,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “You can’t bunt into a double play.”
The A’s got singles from Carter and Cliff Pennington before pinch-hitter Brandon Moss’ tying single against Alfredo Aceves (0-6). Then Crisp delivered his third career walkoff RBI and Oakland’s first game-ending sacrifice fly since Dan Johnson had one May 15, 2007, against Kansas City.
“He’s the guy you want up in those situations,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Every time he comes to the plate, we have a good feeling.”
Jerry Blevins (2-0) worked 1 2-3 innings for the victory.
Jon Lester pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning but had nothing to show for it.
“We’re sputtering a little bit. We’re not stringing hits together,” Valentine said. “We will tomorrow.”
Lester matched his season high with nine strikeouts, allowing Crisp’s leadoff homer in the first before finding his groove. The left-hander allowed only that run and three more hits in his impressive 107-pitch day.
Crisp’s homer on the third pitch of the night from Lester gave the A’s longballs in 14 straight games. The 14 straight games with a home run is the longest streak since the 2004 team did so from April 27-May 12. Oakland went 17 consecutive games with a homer from April 12-May 1, 2002.
Crisp’s shot stayed just fair of the left-field foul pole for his sixth career leadoff home run and second this year. He also had one last Wednesday at Seattle.
“It’s nice,” Crisp said. “I don’t have that many home runs. I’m not Manny (Ramirez). So, really, there aren’t that many opportunities.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia tied it with his two-out solo drive in the second. The Red Sox went ahead in the fourth when Oakland first baseman Carter tried to backhand Saltalamacchia’s grounder and it bounced off his body for an error, allowing David Ortiz to score from third.
Lester allowed Jonny Gomes’ two-out single in the first then retired the next 12 Oakland batters in order before Kurt Suzuki’s single with two out in the fifth. Lester sure looked sharp despite his 4.53 ERA coming in against the A’s that was his fourth-worst mark against an American League opponent.
“I struggled in the first and then I was able to get into a better rhythm,” Lester said. “The main thing is we lost. They played better. It didn’t work out for us. They had the momentum into the ninth and we didn’t.”
The A’s put runners on second and third with one out in the eighth against Vicente Padilla to bring up top hitter Josh Reddick, who was intentionally walked to load the bases as fans booed. Yoenis Cespedes and Gomes each struck out swinging, and Padilla pumped his fist as he hopped off the mound.
But Boston couldn’t hold it – or add on thanks to Carter’s game-saving defensive gem.
“Chris Carter made a heck of a catch to dim that rally and give us some momentum,” Crisp said.
Punto took responsibility for not doing his part.
“I didn’t get the bunt down,” he said. “It’s simple fundamentals. I can’t make those mistakes.”
Bartolo Colon came off the disabled list to pitch for the first time since lasting only two innings June 17 against San Diego because of a strained right oblique muscle and allowed two runs – one earned – and five hits in six innings, struck out three and walked one.
The game stopped briefly in the bottom of the third when home plate umpire Brian O’Nora received drops in his left eye from Oakland assistant athletic trainer Walt Horn.