OAKLAND -– Scott Kazmir would not appear to be among the A’s All-Star hopefuls who need to impress this weekend in front of Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Nonetheless, Kazmir showed Farrell -- this year’s American League skipper –- just how dialed in he is right now. The left-hander won his fourth consecutive decision to pace the A’s to a 4-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox to open a four-game series at the Coliseum.
Kazmir (9-2) went seven strong innings and limited Boston to four hits. His ERA stands at a sparkling 2.08 and with each start he is solidifying his All-Star candidacy.
His team, meanwhile, won for the fifth time in the past six games. The A’s have opened up a six-game lead in the American League West, their largest division lead before the All-Star break since 1988.
Starting pitching report
Kazmir has posted a 1.60 ERA over his past eight starts (9 ER in 50 2/3 IP), and a nasty change-up has been a key in much of that success. He was pulling the string again with that pitch Thursday night, and finished with eight strikeouts and zero walks.
Kazmir lowered his A.L.-leading opponents’ batting average .203. He’s been so good that Thursday’s outing actually increased his ERA to 2.08. He retired 16 of his first 18 hitters and had just one pitch to regret. He had just one pitch to regret, and that came against longtime nemesis Dustin Pedroia. The Red Sox second baseman reached out and poked a changeup that surprisingly carried over the left field wall to narrow the A’s lead to 3-2.
For his career, Pedroia is hitting an even .500 off Kazmir (19-for-38) with two home runs.
With Sean Doolittle having pitched each of the last two games, Dan Otero got the call in the ninth and earned his first big league save. It didn’t come easy. He allowed Xander Bogaerts’ one-out double, and then A.J. Pierzynski, representing the tying run, flied out deep to center as Coco Crisp made a nice running catch against the wall.
At the plate
Stephen Vogt drove in two runs for the A’s with a ground ball in the second and a bloop single that fell in center in the fourth. In Between, Yoenis Cespedes hit a towering homer to left-center, his 14th on the season. That continues a hot streak for Cespedes since he’s been hitting third with Josh Donaldson dropped down in the order. John Jaso’s RBI single in the eighth provided insurance.
In the field
Cespedes nearly made a leaping catch to rob Pedroia on his sixth-inning homer. Replays showed the ball tipped off his glove as he reached over the left-field wall.
The A’s actually got some nifty outfield work in the other corner spot. Vogt, starting in right, made a sliding catch along the foul line on Xander Bogaerts’ shallow fly in the first. In the next inning, he went into the gap to cut off A.J. Pierzynski’s single and made a strong throw to second to end any thoughts of a double.
The opener of this four-game series drew 24,371.
Brad Mills (0-0, 0.00) will make his A’s debut in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game, with Jesse Chavez being pushed back to Saturday. The Red Sox also switched plans, with Felix Doubront (2-4, 5.12) going in place of Brandon Workman, who began a six-game suspension.