The Red Sox dropped a big lead in the ninth inning, but came back in the fourteenth to walk off with a 9-8 win courtesy of Carl Crawford and J.D. Drew.
While there would eventually be plenty of scoring, this game started out as a pitcher's duel between Josh Beckett and Trevor Cahill, if nor of the cleanest variety. Working around baserunners in each of the first three innings, Beckett eventually settled into a groove, recording eight straight outs to make it through the fifth inning without allowing a run.
Cahill, on the other hand, gave up a quick run in the first, allowing a solo homer to Adrian Gonzalez, and then another in the fifth thanks to hits from Carl Crawford and J.D. Drew.
It was in the sixth, though, that things really got messy for both men. First up was Josh Beckett, who after recording a quick out, lost all semblance of control with his fastball and changeup. Starting with a ball that hit David DeJesus in the foot, Beckett threw six straight balls to put two men on with one out. Then, with the count full, it was Josh Willingham reaching out and hitting a cutter on the outside part of the plate off the wall for a two-run single to tie the game.
The Red Sox immediately struck back, however. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and Dustin Pedroia followed suit to bring him home after the speedy center fielder had stolen second. Pedroia came around and scored himself on a sharp ground ball double down the line from Kevin Youkilis, rebuilding the two-run lead the Sox had just given up.
Unfortunately, Josh Beckett was just as shaky in the seventh, giving up a walk and a single to start the frame before Matt Albers came in and allowed a single and a sacrifice fly to let the A's pull within one at 4-3. The Sox did manage to escape the inning, however, thanks to a big double play induced by rookie Tommy Hottovy pitching just his second major league at bat.
The bottom of the seventh and top of the eight passed uneventfully, but the Sox received some insurance runs in the eighth with Adrian Gonzalez singling and both David Ortiz and Carl Crawford doubling. With a 7-3 lead, the game seemed all-but-over.
But then came a ninth inning the stuff of nightmares. With Terry Francona for some reason calling on Jonathan Papelbon with a four run lead, the Red Sox closer showed his usual inability to perform in non-save situations. This time, though, when mixed with a bit of defensive incompetence from, of all people, Dustin Pedroia, it cost Boston.
It started innocently enough. Mark Ellis got under a 2-2 fastball and sent it floating out behind first base, where it fell between three fielders for a weak hit. But then Daric Barton walked, and by the time Landon Powell struck out for the first out of the inning, Papelbon was at 21 pitches. Still, it seemed like Papelbon had done enough when Coco Crisp hit the ball on the ground right towards Dustin Pedroia. It should have been a double play, it ended up bringing in the first run of the ninth as the typically impressive second baseman let the ball go right past him and into second.
Cliff Pennington doubled, and with the A's within two and both runs in scoring position, tempers boiled over. Jason Varitek found himself thrown from the game after confronting home plate umpire Tony Randazzo-Papelbon and the Captain had been quite unhappy with a number of calls on outside pitches. One pitch later, and it was Conor Jackson singling to left to bring in both runs, leaving the game, amazingly, tied at 7-7.
Jonathan Papelbon, too, found himself tossed from the game after he commented on the similarity of a called strike to a number of balls from earlier in the inning. Randazzo came out from behind the plate, confronting him, and when Papelbon came off the mound to respond, Randazzo wasted no time sending him to the locker room.
Bobby Jenks would enter the game and closed out the inning in a hurry (with Jarrod Saltalamacchia saving a run by making a long throw to first to get Hideki Matsui for the third out on an uncaught third strike), also providing a strong tenth inning after the Sox failed to score in the ninth. But with Alfredo Aceves in for the eleventh, the A's took advantage. A wild Aceves walked Cliff Pennington, and then gave up a 2-2 double to Conor Jackson to put the go-ahead run at third. A few pitches later, and in he came on the sacrifice fly.
Aceves would manage to avoid any further damage in the inning, which would prove important thanks to some two out magic that saved the game in the bottom half. Jarrod Saltalamacchia came just short of evening it up all on his own, smacking a ball just off the top of the Monster, and then came around to score on Jacoby Ellsbury's ground rule double. Unfortunately, though, that was all they would get, as with Adrian Gonzalez out of the game, Oakland elected to walk Pedroia, and go after Drew Sutton, who struck out to send the game to the twelfth.
For the next two-and-a-half innings, the Sox would exchange zeros, with each side coming up empty in some big opportunities (including Mike Cameron's two-strike bunt attempt with Kevin Youkilis at first and nobody out which, of course, ended up in foul territory for a strikeout). Alfredo Aceves came through in a big way, taking four big innings on his shoulders when he wasn't even expecting to pitch and despite cutting himself in the thirteenth. Then came the fourteenth, and with it, a much-needed finish.
It wasn't obvious that the end was anywhere in sight, though, after the seventh pitch of the inning. The first two tosses earned Guillermo Moscoso a pop-up from Kevin Youkilis, and five more brought him a Mike Cameron fly out. Up came Carl Crawford, who despite a slow start, has earned a reputation for big hits this season. He had fought a couple of battles already in extra innings, seeing 18 pitches in two at bats, but hadn't managed to provide the game winner in either opportunity. He wouldn't this time either, but he did do the next best thing, dropping a line drive right in front of the Monster for a two-out double.
The Athletics had a choice: pitch to Jed Lowrie, who was 0-for-6 in the game so far, or to J.D. Drew, who had a hit in the fifth, but also four straight strikeouts leading up to the inning. They elected to go after Drew, walking Lowrie despite Moscoso being a right-handed pitcher. On the first pitch Drew took a strike, on the second he made them pay, lining the ball into the gap in right field, and bringing home Crawford from second, making the Red Sox winners.