OAKLAND, Calif. — A short turnaround against a pitcher throwing better than anyone in the majors presented a tough environment for the Boston Red Sox to come up with their first road win of the season.
Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie homered off the previously untouchable Gio Gonzalez and the Red Sox ended their season-opening seven-game road skid by beating the Oakland Athletics 5-3 on Wednesday.
“It’s a little late, but it feels good,” manager Terry Francona said. “If we bog ourselves down with what we did two weeks ago, that’s what we’re going to do: bog ourselves down. We need to try to stay in the moment and win.”
Clay Buchholz (1-2) allowed a leadoff home run to Coco Crisp and nothing else in 5 1-3 innings as the Red Sox snapped the longest road losing streak to start a season in franchise history.
Despite building a 5-1 lead, there were some tense moments late for the Red Sox. Crisp’s one-out RBI single off Bobby Jenks in the eighth inning cut Boston’s lead to three runs, but Jenks recovered by striking out Daric Barton. Jonathan Papelbon escaped the jam by striking out David DeJesus.
The A’s added another run in the ninth on Landon Powell’s RBI single before Papelbon got pinch-hitter Josh Willingham and Cliff Pennington to end the game for his third save.
“We didn’t take advantage of some situations when we had them,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “We had some of our better hits up in certain situations and didn’t necessarily come through. We had our chances, we did.”
Gonzalez (2-1) came into the game having thrown 17 straight scoreless innings and having allowed only one run in three starts for an 0.47 ERA. But he allowed an RBI single to Carl Crawford in the second, a solo homer to Youkilis in the fourth and the two-run shot by Lowrie in the sixth in a rare off performance for an Oakland starter.
In the previous turn through the rotation, A’s starters gave up just one earned run in 33 2-3 innings for an 0.27 ERA. Gonzalez was touched for four runs and eight hits in six innings in a game played in a steady rain.
“It’s definitely a little bit of pressure,” Gonzalez said. “It was kind of a tough act to follow. … These guys were swinging. They weren’t going to let us go and just walk over them. That’s a tough team to keep down. If you make a mistake they’re going to make you pay for it and that’s exactly what they did.”
Gonzalez had good stuff as evidenced by his nine strikeouts but was done in by the homers from Youkilis and Lowrie as the A’s lost for just the sixth time in their past 24 home games against Boston.
J.D. Drew added his first homer of the season, a solo shot, in the seventh off Jerry Blevins to help the Red Sox win for the fourth time in five games after a 2-10 start.
“Now we can just sort of relax a little bit and not have to worry about how we haven’t won on the road,” Buchholz said. “I think everybody swung the bats well yesterday and had some good battles at the plate today, scored some runs for us. I think everybody will start turning around and we’ll start taking pressure off ourselves and go out and play.”
Buchholz allowed 10 runs in five innings on the way to a pair of losses in Oakland last season and got off to a rough start in this game as well when Crisp homered to right field on Buchholz’s first pitch.
But Buchholz stranded a pair of runners in both the second and fifth innings and pitched around Mark Ellis’ one-out double in the fourth before being relieved by Daniel Bard with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning.
Bard struck out Pennington and then escaped the jam by retiring Crisp on a popup. Crisp’s out came one pitch after his line drive to left field landed just inches foul.
“That was the game right there,” Francona said. “The game can be won in the sixth or the seventh. For me that was it. He came in and stopped it. We started it back up again, but that’s what he’s there for.”
Buchholz allowed one run and six hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Notes: Ellis’ double in the fourth was the 200th of his career. Ellis also made Oakland’s major league-worst 20th error in the top of that inning when he dropped a ball on a potential force at second. … Lowrie was 2 for 4 and is batting .480 this season against lefties. … Crisp’s homer was just the eighth of the season for the A’s. … LHP David Purcey, acquired from Toronto earlier in the week, made his Oakland debut with two perfect innings of relief. … This marked the 99th anniversary of the first game played at Fenway Park, a 7-6 Boston win in 11 innings over the Yankees in 1912.