OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — There was a time earlier this season when the Boston Red Sox struggled to drive in runs with two outs.
Suddenly, that seems like a long time ago.
Dustin Pedroia hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the eighth inning, and the Red Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 4-2 on Friday night in a matchup between the AL’s top teams.
Brock Holt also drove in two runs — and also with two outs — in the second inning before the A’s rallied. Eleven of Boston’s last 13 runs have come with two outs.
“There’s no secret,” said Pedroia, who also made a run-saving stop at second base to start a double play in the sixth. “We’ve just been able to find ways to get that one pitch and make sure we don’t miss it.”
John Lackey (7-6) overcame a season-high four walks in seven innings to carry the AL-leading Red Sox to their fourth straight victory. He allowed two runs and three hits while striking out five. He also hit a batter.
Lackey improved to 19-6 against the A’s, even though this was far from his best performance.
“This is probably one that says more about where I’m at than anything,” he said. “I probably didn’t have my best stuff like I had my last few times out and still was able to do pretty good against a pretty good team.”
The A’s left six on base, while the Red Sox stranded five.
John Jaso hit an RBI single in the fifth and Jed Lowrie added a tying home run in the sixth for Oakland, which remained a game ahead of Texas in the AL West. Sean Doolittle (3-3) allowed one hit and hit a batter before Ryan Cook gave up Pedroia’s two-out single.
Andrew Bailey, a two-time All-Star closer for the A’s from 2009-2011, tossed a scoreless eighth. Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save this season.
Jarrod Parker regrouped after a sloppy second inning to retire his final 16 batters and put the A’s in position to come back. He gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking none.
“I was moving the ball in and out and being able to get some early contact. That helped me go later into the game after a long inning like that,” Parker said.
The only runs off Parker came in an inning that featured two errors and a hit batter that also took out plate umpire CB Bucknor and caused a brief delay.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson’s errant throw to first allowed Mike Napoli to advance to second. Then Parker’s pitch — clocked at 92 mph — grazed Daniel Nava and hit the right side of Bucknor’s mask.
Bucknor went down on one knee and winced in pain. Second base umpire and crew chief Bill Miller replaced Bucknor behind the plate and the game resumed with three umpires.
Holt’s two-out single gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. He advanced to third on the play when catcher Jaso threw the ball into right-center field trying to nab him at second, but Parker never allowed another baserunner.
The A’s offense finally got going when Seth Smith doubled off the wall in left leading off the fifth for the first hit against Lackey. After Coco Crisp walked, Jaso’s single sliced Boston’s lead to 2-1.
Crisp advanced to third when right fielder Shane Victorino bobbled Jaso’s hit. But Pedroia made a spectacular diving stop at second on Donaldson’s grounder to start an inning-ending double play.
“Thank God it landed in my glove, because if it didn’t, it probably would have put a hole in my chest,” Pedroia said of the hard-hit hopper.
Lowrie sent a 1-0 cutter from Lackey over the wall in right for the tying shot in the sixth. It was Lowrie’s seventh home run this season.
Victorino was hit on the base of his right thumb by Doolittle to put runners on first and third in the seventh. After Victorino stole second uncontested, Pedroia singled to left against Cook to put Boston back in front.
“Just another very go overall win on our part,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
NOTES: The Red Sox acquired reliever Matt Thornton and cash from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for minor league outfielder Brandon Jacob. … Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz (neck strain) threw about 30 pitches in a bullpen session Friday. The rehab assignment he had been scheduled to make Sunday will now just be another bullpen session. Farrell said Bucholz will throw a simulated game at some point and make just one rehab start instead of the two originally planned. … Brandon Workman, who allowed three earned runs in two innings in his major league debut in Wednesday’s 11-4 win at Seattle, will make his first start in Sunday’s series finale at Oakland, Farrell said. … INF Adam Rosales, who the A’s designated for assignment Monday, cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Sacramento. … Lefty John Lester (8-5, 4.60 ERA) starts for the Red Sox against Oakland’s A.J. Griffin (7-6, 3.94 ERA) on Saturday.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP