Sure, Thornton ended up retiring Crisp anyway. And sure, Thornton Luck wasn't to blame for the first-pitch get-me-over slider that Jonny Gomes crushed to left field to tie the game. But the rest of the inning featured one agonizing bad turn after another.
With two outs and nobody on, Matt Thornton jammed Yoenis Cespedes. Alexei Ramirez had to back up on the weird spin, and his throw was off the line, maybe late. Infield single. Thornton then jammed the next batter, Chris Carter. The ball dropped just over Gordon Beckham's head in short right field to put runners on the corners.
Thornton exited for Brett Myers. Thornton Luck stayed put. On Myers' first pitch, Brandon Inge went with an outside-corner fastball and dotted the right-field chalk with it to give the A's a lead. They tacked on one more run in the ninth off Myers after two outs and nobody on (Alex Rios playing a Crisp single into a double, and another single scoring Crisp), but they wouldn't need it.
Then again, considering the Sox trailed 6-2 through the middle of the fourth because Francisco Liriano unraveled, the Sox didn't exactly deserve to win. A blowout turned into a good game, and that turned into a frustrating loss.
Liriano struck out the side in the first inning, but the command evaporated shortly after. He missed either outside to right-handed hitters with his fastball, or down and in with his off-speed stuff, and he wasn't able to snap out of it. From the second through his exit in the fourth, he had three kinds of pitches -- misses wide with the fastball, misses low with the off-speed stuff, and misses up in the zone with his strikes.
Philip Humber helped make it a game again with a terrific three innings. Pitching exclusively from the stretch, his breaking stuff had some real snap to it, which was partially the reason for his three walks. But he also struck out five, didn't allow any hits, and, most importantly, didn't allow any runs.
The Sox offense clawed its way back into the game, with Tyler Flowers the unlikely leader. Robin Ventura used two catchers in a lineup for the first time this season, and it worked. Flowers, who sliced a double down the right field line to stretch the Sox lead to 2-0 in the second inning, also came through an RBI single through the right side on the fourth to stop the bleeding.
Then came the big flies. After Kevin Youkilis hit a wall-scraping two-run homer just right of center to cut the lead to 6-5, Flowers tied it in the sixth with a first-row homer of his own on a hanging changeup to left.
And in the seventh, the other catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, lined a single to right-center to score Youkilis, giving the Sox a lead that looked unimaginable at some point.
Flowers took a pitch to the left triceps in his final at-bat, so he finished the day with a perfect 3-for-3, three-RBI night. Pierzynski went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored from the DH spot.
This game had its share of odd breaks and bounces, and misfortune cost each team in a run in the seventh. With two outs, Cliff Pennington hit a drive to deep-right center. Alejandro De Aza seemed like he got to the spot in stride, but the ball went over his glove, bounced off the warning track, and stuck underneath the padding across the top of the wall. Had the ball not gotten lodged, that probably would have resulted in a run. Instead, Jesse Crain stranded runners on second and third by striking out Jemile Weeks, and the game remained tied.
In the bottom half of the inning, Alex Rios hit a hard grounder over the bag at third. Brandon Inge made a great effort to stop the ball, which prevented a double. It also looked like he dislocated his
wrist shoulder on the play, because he couldn't move his fingers until he made an adjustment with his other hand. A double would have allowed two runs to score on Pierzynski's single. Instead, runners moved to the corners, and when Alexei Ramirez tested Inge with a grounder to third, Inge converted it for an inning-ending double play.
The Sox could use a convincing victory. Myers pitched for the sixth time out of the last eight games, and Crain has pitched in three straight.