Before Monday night’s 11-6 demolition of the Oakland A’s, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was asked what he liked most about his team during its recent 6-1 road swing through Minnesota and Chicago.
“The season is an evolution,’’ Valentine said. “Everyone wants it to be a creation that you just mix up in the chemistry lab and then pour out the final product. That’s not what happens. It evolves.
“Our pieces are evolving together - very good starting pitching, we put the bullpen together and feel like we have a nice little order going there, and everyone’s contributing offensively.’’
Not even a mad scientist could have come up with the concoction of pitching, hitting, and defense that the Red Sox displayed against the A’s before a Fenway Park crowd of 37,359 to reach the .500 mark (11-11).
“It’s a good win, seeing all the guys contribute, running around the bases and feeling good at home,’’ said Valentine, after the Sox kicked off this six-game homestand by posting their seventh double-digit score this season, a club mark through 22 games.
“It’s a good way to start the homestand.’’
Through six innings, the Sox received lights-out pitching from Clay Buchholz before the righthander got roughed up in the seventh by Josh Reddick. The former Sox outfielder, who returned to Boston for the first time since being traded to Oakland for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney, capped a five-run inning with a three-run homer into the visitors’ bullpen to make it 11-6.
It tarnished what otherwise was a solid performance by Buchholz (3-1, 8.69 ERA), who allowed just one run through the first six innings. He departed after throwing 99 pitches in 6 2/3 innings, giving up 6 runs on 7 hits and 5 walks to go with 5 strikeouts.
“He did what he needed to do for those first six [innings],’’ Valentine said. “His changeups were down, his curveball was biting, his fastball was working. It’s another one to build on.’’
Boston’s offense, meanwhile, bludgeoned Oakland pitching with 11 runs, 11 hits, and four home runs, including a pair by David Ortiz. The designated hitter took lefthanded starter Tommy Milone (3-2, 3.69) deep to both bullpens, the latter in the fifth inning that caromed off Reddick’s glove and sent him tumbling into the Sox bullpen.
Ortiz’ first blast of the night in the second inning was the first time Milone, who had held lefty batters hitless (0 for 12) entering the game, had allowed a homer to a lefty in his career, a stretch of 53 innings. Milone had given up only one homer in 27 innings this season.
“David’s the star of stars right now,’’ Valentine said. “It’s hard to throw a strike right by him. He’s using all the fields and seeing the ball awfully well. He gets two balls and no strikes, it doesn’t even bother him to take because he’s very confident right now in his swing.’’
Ortiz (2 for 3, 3 runs, 2 RBIs), Darnell McDonald (3 for 4, 3 runs, 2 RBIs on a two-run homer), and Mike Aviles (2 for 5, 2 runs, 4 RBIs, three-run homer) did most of the damage.
“You look at what was going on, 1 through 9, everyone was having good at-bats,’’ Aviles said. “I think that’s the key, not necessarily the hitting. It’s the good at-bats, because it can wear down a pitcher and sometimes it forces him to make mistakes and we were fortunate to capitalize on those mistakes.’’
The A’s broke the ice on a chilly night with a run in the second.
Ortiz wasted little time answering for the Sox in the bottom half, launching the first of his homers off Milone (8 runs, 7 earned, 8 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, 3 home runs). Ortiz took Milone’s 3-2 pitch into the bullpen.
“He’s all right if you like that kind of stuff, guys who hit for average, a lot of homers and a lot of RBIs,’’ Aviles said with a laugh. “In all honesty, he’s a real force in our lineup. To have him anchor this lineup, it really helps us.
“That doesn’t even say what kind of teammate he is.’’
After Kelly Shoppach struck out for the first of three times on the night, McDonald followed with a ground-rule double that hopped into the Sox bullpen. Marlon Byrd, making his first Fenway appearance in a Red Sox uniform, rapped a single to right-center, scoring McDonald with the go-ahead run, 2-1.
Aviles made it 3-1 with his RBI single to left, which scored Byrd. He then came home on Jemile Weeks’s throwing error to first on what otherwise would have been a routine putout of Adrian Gonazlez, enabling the Sox to take a 4-1 lead after the second inning.
The Sox put two more on the board in the third when McDonald hit his second homer of the season, driving a first-pitch offering from Milone off the light stanchion in left center, scoring Ortiz, who drew a leadoff walk.
Buchholz labored in the fifth when he issued a one-out walk to Brandon Inge, the former Tiger who joined the A’s Monday. He then hit Cliff Pennington with a pitch, but got out of the inning by inducing Weeks to fly to center and Coco Crisp to ground into a forceout.
It set the stage for a five-run outburst by the Sox.
The A’s made it interesting by sending 11 men to the plate and erupting for five runs in the seventh, getting three of them from Reddick, who chased Buchholz with his blast. Junichi Tazawa entered with two out and faced three batters but failed to get an out, giving up a hit, hitting a batter, and suffering a fielding error by Nick Punto (who dropped a infield popup) , loading the bases for Daric Barton.
Vicente Padilla came on and froze Barton with a 92-mile-per hour fastball for a called third strike.
Oakland threatened again in the eighth when Scott Atchison loaded the bases on a pair of singles to Inge and Pennington and a walk to Weeks. Atchison struck out Crisp before handing over a bases-loaded situation to Franklin Morales, who induced Reddick to ground into a double play on a fine play by Dustin Pedroia. The second baseman fielded Reddick’s sharply-struck ground ball for a force out on Weeks at second before throwing across his body to first to turn the double play.
“He’s in that same category as Big Papi,’’ Aviles said of Pedroia. “Me, personally, I feed off it. He gives you 110 percent every day, every at-bat, every pitch. So it’s good to feed off that kind of stuff.’’
It takes time to build chemistry. But Monday night the Sox provided a good mix of hitting, pitching, and defense.