BOSTON — Utilizing his platform as a major leaguer, Jharel Cotton is doing his part to help with hurricane relief in the Caribbean.
On Wednesday night, his A’s teammates provided him a boost as well.
Cotton navigated through trouble to make it through five innings, benefiting from some early offense, a stout bullpen and one very heady defensive play by Matt Olson to get the victory as the A’s beat the Red Sox 7-3 at Fenway Park.
The win snapped an eight-game road losing streak for the A’s, and it gave Cotton just his second win of the season in a night game. He came in with a 1-7 record and 8.00 ERA in 11 starts under the lights.
“I wasn’t thinking about it too much,” Cotton said. “I just wanted to come in and give my team a chance to win.”
Cotton (8-10) has concerns on his mind beyond his pitching. He took the mound Wednesday with the inscription “VI/BVI Strong” written on his cap, short for “Virgin Islands/British Virgin Islands Strong.” He was born on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and spent a big chunk of his childhood on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and he’s very much aware of the destructive damage done by Hurricane Irma throughout the Caribbean.
Cotton’s father had the roof blown off his house and his uncle suffered similar damage to his home, though Cotton’s relatives all remained safe. In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, Cotton started a GoFundMe page to raise money for relief efforts. He’s raised more than $12,000 so far.
“It means a lot to me because that’s where I grew up,” he said. “There’s a lot of people back there that need a lot of help, and for me to be on the stage I’m on right now to do that is pretty awesome.”
Cotton was making his first career start against Boston, and his teammates staked him to a four-run lead in the first before he even took the mound. It was a 6-2 game in the third when the Sox loaded the bases with one out. Mitch Moreland hit a bouncer to Olson at first, and the rookie alertly took the out at first and then fired home to nail Dustin Pedroia trying to score for an inning-ending double play.
That play had A’s manager Bob Melvin marveling at Olson’s defensive acumen for a 23-year-old.
“It was the kind of situation where if they hit it hard at you, you can go to second and turn two,” Olson said. “But it wasn’t hit that great. It took me a little toward the bag. You just improvise a bit (with) momentum heading that way.”
Liam Hendriks, Daniel Coulombe, Ryan Dull, Chris Hatcher and Blake Treinen combined for four scoreless innings to close it out as the A’s won for the sixth time in seven games.
Cotton hardly was overpowering, giving up three runs on six hits over his five innings. But he helped the A’s snap a seven-game losing streak at Fenway, their longest since an eight-gamer that bridged 1996 and 1997.
“He definitely had to battle through some stuff a couple times to where we were on the verge of getting him out, and he ended up getting some double plays from some pretty good hitters,” Melvin said. “You look at the box score, and it doesn’t tell you how he battled.”