BOSTON -- Brandon McCarthy had never faced the Red Sox before Wednesday -- not this Brandon McCarthy.
Back on Sept. 7, 2008, the old version of the right-hander was dealt his third career loss against them, his ERA vs. Boston living large at 6.29. David Ortiz hit a two-run homer that day. Coco Crisp also did some damage -- likely with a four-seamer, which McCarthy ultimately traded in for a two-seamer and a cutter before the start of last season.
The new McCarthy, transformed by data-driven adjustments, emerged as a frontline starter with those pitches. On Wednesday, in a 4-2 A's victory, he pitched like one.
Oakland's No. 1 starter limited the Red Sox to one run and five hits through 6 2/3 innings, helping his club secure a series win at a place that hasn't been too kind in recent years, as the victory marked the A's seventh in their last 25 tries at Fenway. All the while, they found the .500 mark again.
"This has been a tough spot historically the last few years for our club, so to win two out of three here, especially after losing the first game and having a tough series in Baltimore at the end there, it shows some resiliency in the club," manager Bob Melvin said. "For us, it takes the whole club. We don't dominate with a couple of guys in the middle, or with one or two from the staff. We get it from across the board."
"Where we get wins, or who we get them against isn't all that important," McCarthy said. "It's just about putting together complete performances like this, where we have something mentally to build upon, knowing we're capable of these performances and capable of beating good teams."
Donning replicas of their 1936 uniforms, the A's handed McCarthy just the right amount of help, by way of RBI hits from Seth Smith, Kila Ka'aihue and Brandon Inge. McCarthy, who entered with a season run support average of 2.77, subsequently improved to 10-0 in 11 starts with run support of four runs or more with Oakland.
Utilizing a season-high-tying 113 pitches, the righty walked three and fanned four on the night, the lone run plated against him coming in the seventh, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia and offseason workout partner Will Middlebrooks, who was making his Major League debut, reached on a single and double, respectively, before Marlon Byrd notched a sacrifice fly.
But that's all the Sox would get against McCarthy, who departed with two runners on and two outs, as Ryan Cook came aboard and loaded the bases via a walk to Dustin Pedroia, before striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the threat.
"Strikes. Sinkers, cutters. All over the place," Byrd said of McCarthy. "He stayed on the plate with both of them. It's hard to hit two exploding fastballs in different directions. It's one of those where you have one chance to have a big inning and you come up short."
The A's still held a three-run advantage at that point, having scored one in the fourth on the first of two RBI hits from Smith, and three in the sixth against Boston starter Daniel Bard. Josh Reddick led off the frame with a single, and one out later, back-to-back doubles from Smith and Ka'aihue resulted in a pair of runs.
Kurt Suzuki was the next to board, after taking a fastball to his left hand, and Inge's ensuing two-bagger gave Oakland its fourth and final run. And while McCarthy surely appreciates the run support, he's come to learn not to rely on it.
"It helps," he said. "It does give you that backboard. There's not as much pressure in worrying about giving up a sac fly or a run and that's going to decide the game, but it still isn't something I think a whole lot about.
"I felt like I was able to throw a lot of strikes, and my command was pretty solid. I was able to mix everything, which made me comfortable. Anytime I'm successful, that's going to be the reason why. With a lineup like that, all they need is a few mistakes and they can pounce."
"Getting that lead, we've been struggling to do that this year, just putting pressure on our starters to have to make that perfect pitch," added Melvin. "It helps our guys relax even more."
Boston tallied a run off lefty Brian Fuentes in the ninth, but it wasn't enough to keep the A's from departing for St. Petersburg with a victory and for Fuentes to capture his 200th career save -- a feat accomplished by only five other left-handers.
Not a bad finish to the day's encouraging script.
"Definitely big wins," Suzuki said.
"We just did all the things we need to do to win games," McCarthy said. "Our execution the last two nights was good."