Emotions this late in the season?
Butch Hobson held a team meeting prior to last night’s game and it finally worked.
“I told our guys, ‘It’s the fourth quarter -- let’s go,’ “ said Hobson. ‘’We’re going to stay aggressive and stop hearing this stuff about last place.”
The Red Sox and A’s did not have the best feelings about one another after Boston came back to beat Dennis Eckersley, 5-4, at Fenway. The Sox scored two eighth-inning runs against the best reliever in baseball, and closer Jeff Reardon needed two pitches to retire Sox killer Terry Steinbach -- one of the objects of Boston’s ire -- with the bases loaded to end the game.
Eckersley hadn’t lost a game since Sept. 28, 1991, the A’s hadn’t lost a game in which he’d pitched this year. They were 52-0 in those games until Billy Hatcher blooped a double to right, scoring the tying and winning runs.
“I was up there just trying to make contact,” said Hatcher, who is 4 for 5 lifetime against Eck, with three of those hits coming in the National League. “Luckily I got one down the line.”
The left fielder had brought the Sox within a run with a one-out homer in the seventh off Jeff Parrett.
Scott Cooper, who along with Hatcher had three hits but had been the defensive goat, doubled to left-center with one out in the eighth. After
Parrett struck out Tony Pena, it was Eck time. He entered the game with 40 saves in 41 chances and a 6-0 record, but he intentionally walked pinch hitter Wade Boggs before Hatcher struck.
Hobson was going to stay with rookie righthander Paul Quantrill to close the game, but after Quantrill got the first two outs, Jerry Browne walked and Jose Canseco doubled. Hobson went to Tony Fossas, who walked pinch hitter Randy Ready intentionally.
Finally, Hobson went to Reardon, who earned his 27th save by getting Steinbach, who had hit a solo homer in the fifth, to ground to short.
Why stick with Quantrill to start the ninth?
“We’ve got to find out what these guys can do,” said Hobson. “I want to do some things a little differently. I just thought he was throwing the ball well.”
Reardon was thankful just to be in the game. Better late than never.
“We beat the best reliever,” said Reardon. “I haven’t been pitching good for a long time and this gives me a lot of confidence that I got him out. You’ve got to be careful with someone like him.”
Asked if he should have been in earlier, Reardon said, “All I know is I got in and it was nice to get in.”
With the game tied, 2-2, the A’s staged a go-ahead rally in the sixth, with Cooper in the thick of it, starting with Canseco’s infield hit to third base. Harold Baines followed with an infield hit on which Jody Reed made a nice diving stop but upon trying to throw from his knees put it beyond Mo Vaughn’s stretch.
With runners at first and third and one out, Carney Lansford hit a grounder down the line on which Cooper made a great play well behind the bag and showed off his tremendous arm with a bullet to first to retire Lansford.
Did he have a play at the plate, where Canseco was scoring the lead run? Replays showed it would have been close, but Cooper may have been blocked by Canseco.
Cooper was involved in a home-plate collision with Steinbach in the bottom of the inning. Cooper had singled with two outs and tried to score on Pena’s double to the left-field corner. Shortstop Walter Weiss fielded Ricky Henderson’s cutoff throw and threw a strike to the plate, where Steinbach received the throw and took a hit from Cooper but held on for the out.
When Steinbach got up, he held the ball in Cooper’s face and tossed it to him, causing a little friction.
“Their catcher shows up Cooper,” said Hobson. “That’s not the way you’re supposed to play the game.”
Cooper said Steinbach didn’t give him any of the plate.
“I had to try to knock the ball loose,” said Cooper. “He made a good play to hold on to the ball. But I didn’t think that showing him up was right.”
There was more fun in the top of the seventh, when Darwin hit Henderson with a 3-and-0 pitch. After the game, LaRussa said, “I think it’s really clear Darwin took a cheap shot. They got a win and took a cheap shot against a guy who wasn’t even involved.”
Darwin denied that, saying, “Does he really think I’m going to hit a guy with that kind of speed late in the game?”
Henderson stole second, and after Browne walked with two outs, Boston’s defense struck again. Canseco’s grounder was handled, then bobbled, by Cooper. He threw in the dirt to Vaughn, who again couldn’t handle the throw, and the fourth A’s run scored.