10/02/2003 7:26 PM ET
Game 2 game balls
MLB.com rates the performances of the Red Sox, A's
It’s OK for Oakland fans to exhale. Barry Zito dominated, the offense was just good enough and the A’s took a two-game lead in the best-of-five Division Series with a 5-1 victory over the Red Sox. The best part of Thursday’s action was the game took less than three hours to complete, on the heels of Wednesday’s extra-inning marathon.
Now comes the hard part for the A’s -- actually finishing off the series with win No. 3. Here’s a brief look at some of the key components from Thursday’s contest.
Five Socks: A perfect fit
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Four Socks: Clean and comfortable
Three Socks: Has a couple of holes
Two Socks: Needs a washing
One Sock: Giving off a foul odor
Fenway Park: The Red Sox were one of the best home teams in all of baseball during the 2003 season. If they intend to be doing anything but playing golf after this weekend, that success at Fenway Park better continue Saturday and Sunday.
Tim Wakefield: Sure, Wakefield’s knuckleball played a few tricks on him early in the game, leading to a five-run second. But the veteran right-hander deserved a better fate in that particular inning, even with two hit batsmen and a passed ball leading to the rally. Wakefield held the A’s to four hits over six innings, striking out seven and giving his team a chance to get back in the game.
Doug Mirabelli: Any player who willingly becomes the personal catcher for a knuckleballer already gets a healthy dose of respect. But Mirabelli earns extra credit for being one of two Red Sox hitters in the bottom of the lineup to reach base safely with a third-inning double off Zito.
Todd Walker: Walker’s first postseason appearance Wednesday was one to tell the grandkids about, with four hits and two home runs. As for his second playoff game Thursday ... not so much. Walker committed an error during the five-run third that allowed the final two runs to score. He also batted with two runners on in the third, one run in and one out, and grounded out on the first pitch. Walker grounded out again with two on in the fifth.
No. 5 through No. 9 hitters: Nineteen trips to the plate for David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, Gabe Kapler, Mirabelli and pinch-hitter Jason Varitek. One Mirabelli double, one Mueller single with two outs in the ninth and nine strikeouts. Not exactly conducive to winning games.
Five Elephants: Leading Hannibal’s army
Four Elephants: Stars of the circus
Three Elephants: A trunk full of talent
Two Elephants: Needs to drop a few tons
One Elephant: Watch where you step
Barry Zito: Remember the talented left-hander, with the big hook, who won the American League Cy Young during the 2002 season? If you forgot about Mr. Zito, take a look at the tape from Thursday’s game. Zito was masterful, getting more bite from that big curve as the game moved on. Zito allowed five hits and two walks over seven innings, striking out nine -- including five straight over the fourth and fifth. He threw 113 pitches, which should leave him ready to go in a possible Game Five.
Eric Byrnes: One of the feel-good stories from this season’s first half, Byrnes tailed off precipitously in the second half. But the speedy center fielder was ready when called upon Thursday. He smashed a rare high fastball from Wakefield to left over Manny Ramirez’s outstretched glove in the second, scoring two runs. Byrnes finished with two of Oakland’s six hits.
Keith Foulke: Remember White Sox fans: There’s always next year for struggling closer Billy Koch, acquired for the A’s current closer. Foulke asked for the ball Thursday, after throwing more than 50 pitches in three innings Wednesday, and still was able to finish off the Red Sox.
Chad Bradford: Remember White Sox fans: Miguel Olivo is going to be a front-line catcher in the Major League and already has one of baseball’s best throwing arms. That fact makes the trade of Bradford, who has gone unscored upon in two playoff games, a little easier to take.
Jose Guillen A quick show of hands: How many people could feed themselves soup, let alone play playoff baseball, with a broken bone in their hand? That’s exactly what Guillen is doing, protecting his left hand with every move he makes. It hasn’t hurt his aggressiveness, as Guillen, who walked twice and scored once, tagged up and went from first to second on a fly ball to center in the third.
Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez: The No. 3 and No. 4 hitters for Oakland finished a combined 0-for-8 with seven runners left on base against Wakefield, Alan Embree and Scott Williamson. Tejada has the only hit in the series between the two, a trend that can’t continue if the A’s want to be successful in Boston.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.