Closing Time: Pablo Sandoval homer lifts Red Sox over A's in 11 innings

John Tomase
May 11, 2015 - 10:11 pm
Pablo Sandoval is like Two-Face in the Batman movies. From the left side of the plate, he represents goodness. From the right side, he is grotesque. On Monday night in Oakland, he needed only one swing from the left side to make his mark, lining an Angel Castro offering over the right field fence in the 11th inning to give the Red Sox a 5-4 victory over the A's in a game that didn't look like it was being played by last-place teams. Coco Crisp robbed Dustin Pedroia of extra bases to end one inning, while Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli returned the favor with a leaping snag of a Crisp liner that would've driven in two runs. The respective offenses grinded out rallies, matching runs in the fourth, fifth, and seventh. And both managers treated the game like a playoff affair, with Red Sox skipper John Farrell summoning closer Koji Uehara to keep a tie game that way in the ninth, while A's counterpart Bob Melvin utilized five relief pitchers. But the two sides might still be playing if not for Sandoval, who hit the type of home run that is becoming his trademark '€“ the low-trajectory line drive that leaves the park in a hurry. Prior to the homer, Sandoval had had another rough night from the right side. He grounded into a double play, struck out, and grounded out against A's starter Scott Kazmir. Sandoval began the night hitting just .071 (2 for 28) from the right side, vs. .386 with a 1.017 OPS from the left. Those numbers only skewed even further on Monday. Right-hander Rick Porcello struggled for the Red Sox, allowing nine hits and a walk in just five innings. Porcello, who was coming off two very good seven-inning starts, struggled with his location in this one, often missing the zone badly, particularly with his changeup. It was hard to miss the impact of youth in the seventh inning. In successive at-bats, 22-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 23-year-old catcher Blake Swihart, and 22-year-old center fielder Mookie Betts all singled to plate a run and erase a 3-2 deficit. When Betts then took out shortstop Marcus Semien with a tough, legal slide on Dustin Pedroia's groundout, the Red Sox had a 4-3 lead. It proves short-lived, though, because reliever Craig Breslow gave it right back. This was a matchup of two of the colder teams in baseball. The A's had lost five straight, while the Sox had dropped seven of nine. SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Pablo Sandoval erased a tough start at the plate by drilling the game-winning home run in the 11th. Vote on the Rock Solid Performer of the week and enter to win a VIP Boston Baseball Experience at WHAT WENT RIGHT -- Mike Napoli made a tremendous leaping catch to rob Coco Crisp of two RBIs to end the sixth inning with the Red Sox trailing 3-2. -- Rookie catcher Blake Swihart recorded a single and double in the strongest offensive outing of his young career. -- Mookie Betts continues to show a knack for hitting in the clutch. Both of his hits came with two outs and runners in scoring position to tie the game, and his takeout slide at second allowed the go-ahead run to score in the seventh. -- Shortstop Xander Bogaerts went 2 for 4 with a run and sacrifice bunt, and hit the ball hard multiple times. -- Rookie Matt Barnes earned the first win of his career by tossing two scoreless innings, including a 1-2-3 11th. He retired the red-hot Josh Reddick to end it. WHAT WENT WRONG -- With the Red Sox desperate for runs, they could ill afford to have David Ortiz picked off second base in the sixth after a leadoff double, or Bradley get nailed at third after overrunning the bag in the 11th. -- Right-hander Rick Porcello would be the first to put himself in the disappointing category, even though he only allowed three runs, because he lasted just five innings, allowing nine hits and a walk. Twice, he let the A's scored immediately after the Red Sox had tied the game. -- Entrusted with a 4-3 lead in the seventh, left-hander Craig Breslow allowed two singles and a sacrifice fly to tie the game. -- The Red Sox designated Edward Mujica for assignment last week because he was having a hard time getting anyone out, but in his first appearance for the A's, Mujica retired Hanley Ramirez, Mike Napoli, and Pablo Sandoval.