OAKLAND, Calif. — Jarrod Parker regrouped from a sloppy start to retire 16 straight batters before handing over a tied game to one of baseball's best bullpens.
For one of the few times this season, it wasn't good enough.
Sean Doolittle allowed a hit, then hit a batter before Ryan Cook gave up a two-run single to Dustin Pedroia, and the Oakland Athletics lost 4-2 to the Boston Red Sox on Friday night in a matchup between the AL's top teams.
"I just felt like he was a little bit tired right there," A's manager Bob Melvin said of his decision to pull Parker after the seventh inning. "Didn't want to send him out there and get into a situation where his pitch count gets up there. We had a chance to go with a clean inning right there. I think he was spent."
Apparently, so were two of Oakland's usually reliable relievers.
Shane Victorino was hit on the base of his right thumb by Doolittle (3-3) to put runners on first and third. After Victorino stole second uncontested, Pedroia singled to left against Cook to put Boston back in front.
"It just got away from me," Doolittle said. "I feel terrible about where I hit him and how I hit him and the fact that I even hit him. But you get a guy that's such a good fastball hitter, you want to come inside and try to move his head a little bit and make him a little less comfortable in there. It got away from me a little bit."
Brock Holt also drove in two runs – and also with two outs – in the second inning before the A's rallied.
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. Doolittle (3-3) allowed one hit and hit a batter before Cook gave up Pedroia's 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.
Parker gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings. He struck out three and walked none, throwing 93 pitches.
"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 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," Pedroia said. "Because if it didn't, it probably would have put a hole in my chest."
NOTES: INF Adam Rosales, who the A's designated for assignment Monday, cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Sacramento. ... 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 for Boston, manager John Farrell said.... 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.