A's normally-reliable relief tandem falters
BOSTON -- The A's have been undone by plenty of wobbly bullpen performances this season. Just not like this. Not when their two most reliable relievers, setup man Evan Scribner and closer Tyler Clippard, are on the mound.
Oakland's best late-inning relievers couldn't hold down a three-run lead in the eighth, watching seven Red Sox runs score in a disheartening 7-4 series-sweeping loss at Fenway Park on Sunday.
"They've been pitching great," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Just didn't get it done."
Starter Kendall Graveman departed after giving up a solo shot to Rusney Castillo to begin the fateful frame, and Scribner, facing the top of the Red Sox's order, allowed singles to each of his three batters to narrow Oakland's lead to two.
That's when Drew Pomeranz was summoned for David Ortiz -- who was 0-for-6 lifetime with five strikeouts against the lefty -- and allowed a sacrifice fly to make it a one-run game for Clippard, vying for his second five-out save of the season.
Instead, the right-hander allowed four consecutive two-out hits following a strikeout of Mike Napoli -- including Xander Bogaerts' go-ahead two-run double -- as Oakland's bullpen suffered its 14th loss of the season.
"Threw a changeup down and in," said Clippard. "I got it there. It was probably four inches off [and] in. Normally, when guys get to that pitch, all they can do is get it foul. He did a good job of staying inside that pitch running into him and kept it fair and hit it off the wall.
"I wasn't mad about the execution. He took some poor swings on my fastball throughout that whole at-bat, and I felt like I did a good job reading his swing up until that last pitch. I probably should've thrown him a fastball. In hindsight, it's always easy to say that."
Said Bogaerts: "I was not looking for a fastball that whole at-bat, and he threw me a lot and fouled them off and stayed alive. I was looking for a changeup since pitch one."
Pablo Sandoval also hit a changeup, setting the stage for Bogaerts' big hit with a single over the head of left fielder Mark Canha and off the bottom of the Green Monster to put runners on first and third.
Canha was adamant he "wasn't going to get there."
"I'm the first to criticize myself. I'm the hardest on myself if I make a mistake, and I played that ball perfectly," he said. "The priority there was to keep the winning run from scoring above all. There was a one-percent chance I was going to catch the ball. So I decided to play it off the wall and keep Hanley Ramirez from scoring.
"It's a tough loss. It feels like the sky is falling right now, but there's a lot of season left."