OAKLAND -- Call it a scheduling quirk, coincidence, whatever, but the A's will enter the All-Star game break with a pretty fair idea of what awaits them if they make it to the postseason again based on their most recent opponents.
On Friday night they got their latest look at the Boston Red Sox, the team with best record in the American League. The Red Sox looked every bit as good as they did the first time the teams met when they took two of three, beating the A's 4-2.
This marked the first of three games for the A's against the Red Sox, on the heels of a three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that has pushed the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in the National League.
As expected, not much separated the two teams. In the end, the Red Sox used a pair of two-out, two run singles to get past the AL-West leading A's at the Coliseum.
"They capitalized on some of the mistakes we made ...," said A's reliever Sean Doolittle, who was charged with the loss after the two base runners he allowed scored on a Dustin Pedroia single that snapped a 2-2 tie in the eighth. "That's what a good team does. Any little thing we did (wrong), they capitalized on it."
The victory assured the A.L. East-leading Red Sox of entering the break with a better record than the A's.
And, even though these games count the same as any other this season, there's no denying that these are the kind of games where the A's measure themselves, despite the fact manager Bob Melvin downplayed the significance.
It wasn't much of a comparison for the first four innings when Red Sox starter John Lackey held the A's without a hit and Boston made every play defensively, while Oakland chased down errant throws all over the field.
Yet, as the A's are wont to do, they hung around until things went their way and made things interesting for the 27,084 in attendance.
Credit Jarrod Parker for keeping the A's in the game. He matched Lackey almost pitch for pitch, with the big difference a two-out, two-run single in the second inning.
"We know we need to play our game," Parker said. "That's pitching well and getting a couple of big hits. ... We were in that game the whole time."
Parker retired the final 16 batters he faced. During that time, the A's chipped away at Lackey until they forged a 2-2 tie.
That score held until two outs in the eighth, when Pedroia lined his big hit off reliever Ryan Cook.
Pedroia also turned in a fine defensive play in the fifth, with the A's trailing 2-1 and Josh Donaldson at bat with runners on first and third.
Donaldson hit a line shot to the right of second base, where Pedroia fielded the ball on the short hop and initiated an inning-ending double play on a ball that seemed destined for a game-tying single.
"That's one of those momentum shifts that we're talking about," Melvin said. "That was probably the biggest play of the game."
Melvin said the way Gray comported himself in a two-inning stint against the Pirates on Wednesday showed that Gray is ready for anything. "He impressed to the point where we could potentially use him in any situation," Melvin said. "It didn't look like he was nervous about anything."
Boston (Jon Lester 8-5) at A's (A.J. Griffin 7-6), 7:05 p.m., CSNCA