By Charlie O. Mallonee
The Oakland Athletics went into the game on Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds needing a win in the worst way. Losers of seven consecutive games, the A’s were in danger of going 0-8 on an eight game road trip. The psychological damage to the team by going winless on the road trip could have devastating effects for the rest of the season.
Not only did the A’s have to battle a losing streak, they had to battle the weather. The Midwestern summer has come early and it was 89-degrees with 55-percent humidity at game time. That made it feel like the temperature was 96-degrees. The Athletics are not used to playing in those conditions.
The A’s found their power and used the long ball with men on base to take an early lead that they never relinquished but only added to as the game progressed. Oakland had to pitch by committee due to the weather and because they were playing an Inter-league game in a National League park where the pitchers had to bat. They played the game like a team that knew they had to win the game.
In the batter’s box
Marcus Semien started off the scoring for the A’s in the top of the second inning when he hit a 3-1 pitch from John Lamb over the left field wall with Billy Butler on base to give Oakland a 2-0 lead. It was Semien’s 12th home run of the season. He finished the day going 2-for-4 with two RBI and one run scored.
The A’s scored two more runs in the second inning when Jake Smolinski hit his second home run of the year off Lamb with Josh Phegley on base. Smolinski’s home run gave the A’s a 4-0 lead at the time.
Danny Valencia joined the home run derby when he hit a solo shot into the left field seats in the top of the eighth inning off reliever A.J. Morris to give the A’s a 5-1 lead.
The A’s manufactured a run in the top of the ninth when Khris Davis hit a line drive single to center that allowed Coco Crisp to score the sixth run from second base.
Khris Davis had a 2-for-5 game with the insurance RBI.
Billy Butler continued to be productive at the plate going 3-for-3 with a run scored. The A’s have been waiting all season for Butler to catch fire.
Jed Lowrie stayed hot with the bat going 3-for-5 in the game. Lowrie’s average now stands at .303.
The A’s scored six runs on 15 hits with eight runners left on base.
The Reds only run came in the bottom of the second inning when outfielder Steve Selsky scored off catcher Ramon Cabrera’s double to left field. Kendall Graveman was on the mound for the A’s.
The Reds scored one run on seven hits and left six men on base despite the A’s having to use five different pitchers in the game.
On the Mound
Kendall Graveman started the game for Oakland on Sunday. Graveman entered the game with a 2-6 record and had really been struggling in last several starts. Graveman pitched well but succumbed to the weather very quickly. Graveman pitched to one batter in the fifth inning but had to come out of the game. He worked 4.0 innings giving up one run (earned) on seven hits while striking out five and walking two batters. Because Graveman did not work five innings it was up to the official scorer to assign the win and Graveman was given a no decision for his 4-plus innings of work.
Fernando Rodriguez came on in the top of the fifth for Graveman and pitched two perfect innings of baseball in relief. For his efforts, Rodriguez was credited with his second win of the season.
John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson each worked a perfect inning of relief for Oakland on Sunday. Axford and Doolittle were impressive as they were throwing pitches in the high 90’s. For Madson, it was his first work on the mound since his appearance in Houston seven days ago.
John Lamb (1-4, 5.14) took the loss for the Reds even though he only pitched four innings. Cincinnati used four pitchers in their losing effort.
The key on defense for the Oakland Athletics was the fact they did not commit an error in the game. Not only did they play errorless baseball, the A’s turned three double plays that all killed potential scoring opportunities for the Reds.
The Reds did not commit an error in the game.
The A’s will have no time to rest and celebrate their victory. Oakland heads back into action on Monday night as they open a four-game home series with the Western Division leading Texas Rangers. The Rangers are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have won two games in a row.
LHP Sean Manaea (2-4, 6.20) will take the mound for Oakland. The Rangers have yet to officially name their starter although speculation centers on LHP Cesar Ramos who is a long reliever and spot starter.