OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—A frighteningly frigid wind ripped through the gaps in the Coliseum’s upper bowl for nearly all 264 minutes of the 12-inning game, making even the simplest baseball tasks both painful and perilous.
Yet if Oakland’s Travis Buck wasn’t a left-handed hitter, the Boston Red Sox thought they might still be playing out in the cold instead of lamenting the longest night yet in their season-opening skid.
Buck barely beat out an infield single with the bases loaded and two outs in the 12th inning, ending the Athletics’ 6-5 victory over the struggling Red Sox on Tuesday night.
“I got to it as fast as I could, but he runs well, and it doesn’t help that he’s left-handed,” said MVP Dustin Pedroia, whose throw to first was an instant late, allowing pinch-runner Rajai Davis to score. “That was the coldest game I’ve ever been a part of. It was freezing out there.”
Until Javier Lopez (0-1) walked three batters in the 12th while pitching for the third straight day, the previous five Boston relievers had done the kind of work that could turn around a season. The bullpen held the A’s scoreless for 10 innings after their five-run first against Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had his second sub-par start of the season after starring for Japan in the World Baseball Classic.
Instead, the Red Sox dropped to 2-6 in their worst start since 1996.
“It’s not what we’re looking for, but hopefully we’ll get this turned around, get a good quality start (Wednesday), and go from there,” said catcher Jason Varitek, who went 0-for-4.
Jason Giambi led off the 12th with a walk and advanced on a groundout by Matt Holliday, who hit a two-run double nearly four hours earlier. Lopez then walked Jack Cust and Bobby Crosby to load the bases. Kurt Suzuki struck out, but Buck chopped a high grounder over the mound and sprinted to first, beating Pedroia’s impressive throw.
“Buck hit that ball off the plate, and everybody got excited,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “No doubt he was safe, game over. It was an unusual way to win, but probably a better chance of that than a home run.”
Sean Gallagher (1-0) pitched the 12th inning for the A’s in their second straight win over the Red Sox.
J.D. Drew had three hits and scored two runs for the Red Sox, who have lost six of seven. Only Cleveland has a poorer record in the AL.
Matsuzaka lasted just one inning before leaving with what the club called arm fatigue—although that was news to Dice-K. He gave up five runs on five hits while matching the shortest start of his career.
“Not in particular,” Matsuzaka said through a translator when asked if he had any physical problems. “I haven’t had the chance to speak to (manager Terry) Francona yet, but for me personally, I think I’m OK.”
The Red Sox faithful who packed the Coliseum grumbled with worry about Matsuzaka, the MVP of the World Baseball Classic with three victories for the champions. After going 18-3 last year, he has given up nine runs in 6 1-3 innings in his first two starts of 2009.
“We talked to him a couple of days ago, and he communictaed to us that he had some fatigue and general soreness in the back of the shoulder from the WBC,” Francona said. “He came out tonight and didn’t have a whole lot. I felt like he ramped up too quick for the WBC, and we’re feeling the effects of that. That’s what we worried about.”
Oakland battered Matsuzaka after Dana Eveland barely survived his own first inning against Boston, yielding three runs on four hits. Eveland, the wizened veteran of the A’s painfully young rotation with just 37 career starts, survived into the fifth inning before Mike Lowell’s second RBI single tied it at 5.
Neither team really threatened to score again until the 10th, when Boston loaded the bases with two outs—but slugger David Ortiz, who still doesn’t have an extra-base hit this season, popped harmlessly into shallow right field, completing an 0-for-5 effort that dropped his average to .172.
“We had them in a bind, and we had a big chance, and we couldn’t get it done,” Francona said.
A blustery evening with wind gusts exceeding 35 mph should be ideal conditions for pitchers in Oakland, where the ball carries poorly for hitters even on the prettiest nights. Yet early on, both starters were tagged repeatedly in a 41-minute first inning featuring 83 pitches.
After Boston’s rally only ended when Nick Green struck out with the bases loaded, five of Oakland’s first six batters then reached base against Matsuzaka, who threw 43 pitches to 10 hitters.
Justin Masterson looked sharp after replacing Matsuzaka to start the second inning, giving up just two hits and striking out six during four scoreless innings.
Oakland third baseman Nomar Garciaparra also didn’t make it out of the first, giving way to Crosby to start the second because of tightness in his right calf.
Cust reached base in his 37th straight game, tying Chavez for the fifth-longest streak in Oakland history. It’s also the longest active streak in the AL, nine more than Boston’s Kevin Youkilis. … Chavez, who underwent an MRI, had surgery last year to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Manager Bob Geren hopes he’ll return Friday when the A’s visit Toronto.