A’s manager Bob Melvin said he had "seven marks" on his scorecard on Tuesday night highlighting defensive plays his team made in a 9-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.
For the first several innings especially, the A’s looked nothing like the team that’s made an MLB-leading 35 errors. It started when the second batter of the game, Dustin Pedroia, singled down the left-field line and challenged Coco Crisp by trying to take second base. Crisp threw Pedroia out at second for his first outfield assist since 2013.
"He usually says he’s got one of those in him a year," said starter Drew Pomeranz.
And from there, it seemed like the rest of the night was one big defensive highlight for the A’s. Crisp made another nice play going back on a Mike Napoli drive in the second and making a twisting catch. Second baseman Eric Sogard made an over-the-shoulder running catch of Xander Bogaerts’ flare to center in the third. Stephen Vogt followed by chasing down Blake Swihart’s pop foul, going into a slide near the Boston dugout.
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Napoli was robbed again by center fielder Sam Fuld on a diving play in the fifth. The happy beneficiary of all this was Pomeranz, who completed seven innings and allowed two runs on four hits.
"It was pretty unbelievable," Pomeranz said. "I think we pretty much got all the Top-10 covered, as far as plays on SportsCenter."
Melvin said it’s "usually a good recipe" when a team combines defense with its starting pitcher going deep into a game as Pomeranz did Tuesday. For emphasis, the A’s added nine runs on 12 hits, snapping their six-game losing streak with the all-around effort that they’ve claimed has been lurking inside them somewhere during a difficult early stretch. Even the bullpen contributed two scoreless innings, one each from Fernando Rodriguez and Dan Otero.
"Look around the clubhouse after a night like tonight, everybody’s smiling, everybody’s happy," Vogt said. "We haven’t felt this way in a week.
"Just a complete game tonight, and that’s what we were needing," he said. "We were needing a good start, hitting, and a good showing from the bullpen, and that’s what we got tonight. And defense. That was a great night for us."
Shortstop Marcus Semien did make his majors-leading 11th error on a high throw in the sixth inning, extending the A’s streak of games with at least one error to 10. Otherwise, this was as good a defensive showing as the A’s have made all season.
Whether or not by coincidence, it came after they dedicated a block of time before batting practice Tuesday to defensive drills. Melvin said that was to put "a little priority" on their defensive work, compared to the usual routine of infielders taking ground balls while BP is going on. "I don’t know if that had anything to do with (the defense Tuesday night)," Melvin said. "But it was something we felt like we should do."
Either way, Melvin could reflect on the A’s overall play after a win for the first time in a week.
"Now you start feeling good yourself and the confidence comes out in the talent level that we have," Melvin said. "Now the trick is to get a couple in a row."
* Pomeranz hadn’t completed six innings since his first start of the season April 10, and was coming off of a loss in Minnesota during which he allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings. After Pedroia’s single in the first, he retired 13 consecutive batters, facing the minimum through five.
"You look at the ball-strike ratio right away with him, and if he’s giving you plus (on the strikes), he gives himself the ability to go more than five innings," Melvin said. "And we needed him to go seven innings tonight."
Shane Victorino doubled and scored Boston’s first run on a Blake Swihart groundout in the sixth, but Pomeranz finished that inning at just 75 pitches. He finished at 97 with 59 strikes -- not a zone-pounding ratio, but Melvin said he was able to throw his curveball for strikes and was locating his fastball well to both sides of the plate.
"Sometimes his confidence goes the other way and he starts taking a little more time and it just kind of snowballs on him," Melvin said. "But today he was trying to pick up the pace, just trying to throw the ball over the middle of the plate and let his stuff work. And as the game went along, you could see the confidence grow."
Pomeranz agreed that working at a quicker pace was important.
"I’m always conscious of that," he said. "I feel like when things were going south for me in the past, the pace was really slow. So I try to get back on the mound and get right after guys."
Pomeranz did have the benefit of pitching with an early lead -- the A’s scored three runs in the first and were up 7-0 after the third -- along with the good defense.
"We all believe that’s how we are," Pomeranz said. "We’ve just kind of been in a little funk for a little stretch there early in the season. But this is who we are, this is how we played last year. We just go from here now."
* Josh Reddick had the fourth four-hit game of his career, including a home run and two RBI singles, and is batting .346 on the season. Reddick had some pretty lofty words after the game for how he’s feeling in the box right now.
"This is probably the best I’ve swung the bat for the longest period of time every in my life in professional baseball," he said. "Consistency, driving the ball, getting my average up is something I wanted to focus on this year. And it’s been coming all together for me right now."
Whatever it is, Reddick has 25 RBIs in the A’s first 35 games, which is an impressive total -- and still five fewer than catcher Stephen Vogt, who hit his ninth homer of the season with a two-run shot off Justin Masterson in the first inning. Vogt leads all A.L. players in RBIs and has already matched his home run total from last season.
"Hopefully he’s got a few more in his tank," Melvin said. "It’s consistent at-bats every night. Power, average, the whole bit."
Eric Sogard also drove in three runs and Marcus Semien had three hits, including a solo home run, giving him 10 multi-hit games in his last 20. Semien is batting .353 (29-for-82) over that stretch.
* Melvin did say after the game he was glad he didn’t have to use Ike Davis. Davis came out of Monday night’s game with a strained left quad. Melvin said before the game Davis could be available to pinch-hit, but the need never arose.
* While Crisp did throw a runner out with his arthroscopically repaired elbow, he also did not collect a hit in five plate appearances Tuesday, which means he has one more outfield assist this season (1) than hits (0).
Crisp is hitless in 25 at-bats this season and, if you go back to last year, in 38 consecutive at-bats overall. That’s the longest hitless streak of Crisp’s career, and tied for the second-longest in Oakland A’s history.
* The A’s haven’t won a series at home all year. They’ll try for their first on Wednesday as Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.65) faces Wade Miley (1-4, 6.91). First pitch at 12:35 p.m.