On Thursday night at the O.co Coliseum, Scott Kazmir allowed a run for the first time in more than two weeks.
Still, the Oakland Athletics held off the Boston Red Sox 4-2 to improve to a MLB-best 45-28 (.616) on the season.
Kazmir retired 15 of the first 17 batters he faced, as he racked up eight strikeouts while allowing two runs in seven innings of work. The left-hander improved to 9-2 and now owns a 2.08 ERA, which is the second-lowest mark in the American League.
“He’s been terrific,” said manager Bob Melvin. “It’s a broken record talking about him because we’re seeing the basically the same game out of him.”
As the 30-year-old explained, he’s feeling “great.”
“I feel like I’m able to throw any one of my pitches at any given time, any count.”
The A’s grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning thanks to an RBI groundout from Stephen Vogt. Cespedes then made it 2-0 in the third when he smashed his 14th home run of the season beyond the 388 sign in left-center field. Cespedes finished the night 2-for-4 and is now hitting .324 (23-for-71) with four home runs in 17 games in the month of June.
In the fourth, the A’s opened up a 3-0 advantage after Vogt looped a single to center to bring home Jed Lowrie who had doubled into the left-center gap. With the RBI, Vogt has now driven in 10 runs in his first 14 games and is batting .341 (15-for-44) since arriving in Oakland on June 1.
“I feel good,” said Vogt. “I feel like I’m right where I want to be. Seeing the ball well and being aggressive in the right spots. Finally got a walk tonight, so my on-base percentage is even with my batting average again.”
Vogt also made an impressive sliding catch in the first, as he managed to avoid Brandon Moss who was charging toward him as he also attempted to catch the shallow fly ball.
“That was awesome,” said Kazmir. “You know, plays like that, for a pitcher it gives us so much confidence but momentum. After that when you have someone really lays out makes a play for you.”
In the sixth, Pedroia pulled the Red Sox within a run. Kazmir served up a home run to left field that hit the glove of the leaping Cespedes. The two-run shot clattered off the concrete steps beyond the wall, nearly tagging Eck, Rollie and Rickey as they prepared to run the Hall of Fame Race.
An inning later, the A’s added on an insurance run to make it 4-2 courtesy of an RBI single up the middle by John Jaso.
With Sean Doolittle having pitched two days in a row, Melvin called on Dan Otero to close out the Red Sox. The right-hander recorded his first big-league save, getting the third out of the inning on a drive to the wall in right center.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t feel any different,” said Otero of pitching the ninth. “But I tried to make it the same because I did have some experience in the minor leagues closing. But it’s different up here no matter how you try to fake. it.”
Up next, the A’s take on the Red Sox on 7:05pm on Friday at the O.co Coliseum. Brad Mills (0-0, 0.00 ERA) makes his first start for Oakland with Felix Doubront (2-4, 5.12 ERA) getting the call for Boston.