Red Sox drop series finale with a 4-3 loss to Oakland

You can’t win them all, even when the opponent is the Oakland Athletics.

The A’s avoid a second straight series sweep against the Red Sox with a 4-3 victory in a matinee affair on Thursday before 30,719 at Fenway Park. The A’s defused a two-run Sox rally in the eighth to secure their 22nd victory of the season.

The Red Sox completed a three-game sweep in Oakland earlier in the month by outscoring the A’s 17-4. The two wins in Boston, the Red Sox outscored the A’s 16-2. The Red Sox hurt themselves in the finale by stranding 13 baserunners.

The Red Sox have won 11 of the last 14 and have taken the last four series – two with Oakland, at Seattle (2-1) and at the Los Angeles Angels (3-1).

The Red Sox will look to extend it to five straight when they begin an interleague three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway on Friday night (7:10).

“Two out of three but we had chances and we didn’t hit the ball hard with men on,” said Sox manager Alex Cora. “We put pressure at the end so that’s a good sign and it’s going to happen, we have been playing some good baseball and the pitching is doing a good job.

“We are not going to be perfect but we had a chance at the end. It is what it is, we took two out of three and now we have to get ready for St. Louis.”

A’s starter Paul Blackburn was the difference maker going 5 1/3 while allowing one run on eight hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts. Boston starter Rich Hill performed well allowing four runs, three earned on seven hits with no walks and four strike outs.

“It falls on me, we lost the game because of me,” said Hill. “I take full responsibility for it. I have got to pitch better and sit on it for five days and come back. I want to be a contributory factor to the team and go out there and pitch better.”

The takeaways:

Story land

With one out in the top of the third of a scoreless game, A’s No. 9 hitter Cristian Pache lofted a flyball to center. The ball came down in the disputed border area between charging centerfielder Jarren Duran and backpeddling second baseman Trevor Story.

Story vigorously waived Duran away but misjudged the ball and it dropped behind him. The play was ruled a double and it opened the portal for a three-run inning.

“It just kind of drifted on me in the wind,” said Story. “I just kind of misjudged it a little bit.

“I feel like it is kind of no man’s land a little bit. I probably should have done a better job getting back there and taking command of it but it was just one of those inbetweeners.”

Chad Pinder followed with an RBI single. Right fielder Ramon Laureano nailed a double to right, putting runners on second and third. Catcher Christian Bethancourt sliced a two-run single down the left field line. Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts prevented a bigger meltdown when he stabbed Sean Murphy’s line drive with a leaping catch.

The Sale’s pitch

Chris Sale made another advancement in his months-long rehab process by throwing batting practice on Thursday morning.

Sale threw two simulated innings against six batters with a 10- minute break in between. Cora was happy with what he saw off the mound in terms of velocity and accuracy from the lanky lefty ace.

“It was good, really good, 95-95 good change up and I think that was the difference between last year and this year,” said Cora. “He was a two-pitch pitcher for a month and a half and this year obviously, him that far away from surgery now, this will play.”

Cora didn’t just trust his own eyes. He conferred with catcher Kevin Plawecki and the three hitters Sale faced, right handers Kike Hernandez and Rob Refsnyder and rookie southpaw Grant Williams, who was called up from Worcester.

Sale, who had Tommy John surgery, has pitched just 42 2/3 major league innings since the end of 2019. His rehab took a serious setback when he suffered a ribcage fracture back in February.

“He will probably have another one of these on Sunday or Monday and go from there,” said Cora.

Cora said Sale will likely go to Fort Myers for his first rehab game as opposed to either Double A Portland or Triple A Worcester.

Birds of a feather

The Cardinals come to town as part of a farewell tour for two future Hall of Fame players, first baseman Albert Pujols and catcher Yadier Molina.

“It’s a special season for them with those two guys,” said Cora. “Both of them should be in the Hall of Fame for what they have done for all the years, what they have done for the game and their charities has been amazing.”