There was a time earlier this season when the Boston Red Sox struggled to drive in runs with two outs.
Suddenly, that seems like a long time ago.
Dustin Pedroia hit a tie-breaking, two-run single in the eighth inning, and the Red Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 4-2 on Friday night in a matchup between the AL's top teams.
Brock Holt also drove in two runs — and also with two outs — in the second inning before the A's rallied. Eleven of Boston's last 13 runs have come with two outs.
"There's no secret," said Pedroia, who also made a run-saving stop at second base to start a double play in the sixth. "We've just been able to find ways to get that one pitch and make sure we don't miss it." 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 two games ahead of Texas in the AL West. Sean Doolittle (3-3) allowed one hit and hit a batter before Ryan Cook gave up Pedroia's two-out 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.
Jarrod Parker regrouped after a sloppy second inning to retire his final 16 batters and put the A's in position to come back. He gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking none.
"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.