Photo credit: @NBCSAthletics
By Lewis Rubman
Kansas City: 6 | 11 | 0
Oakland: 5 | 10 | 1
OAKLAND–The A’s sent right-hander Tanner Roark to the fifty yard line—excuse me, the pitcher’s mound—to face the Kansas City Royals at the Coliseum this evening. Roark had pitched against them most recently on August 28, four weeks after Oakland obtained his services from Cincinnati in a trade deadline deal. In that game, he gave up four runs (all earned) in six innings of work in Kaufman Stadium. The A’s went on to lose the contest 6-4, but Roark wound up with a no-decision. He had gone 6-7, 4.24 ERA for the Reds and entered tonight 4-1, 3.40 ERA in his seven starts for the green and gold.
The Royals lost no time in jumping all over the A’s starter. Whit Merrifield led off with a single to left. The next batter, Adalberto Mondesí (AKA Raúl Mondesí, Jr.) brought him home with a ringing triple to left center. Mondesí would have come home on Jorge Soler’s fly to right if anyone other than Ramón Laureano had been playing that position. With one out, the Royals shortstop started to advance when Laureano caught Hunter Dozier’s fly, but stopped and turned back as soon as he saw the laser that Laser Ramón unleashed to Sean Murphy at the plate. Roark then struck out Alex Gordon to end the inning.
Roark’s counterpart, Glenn Sparkman, entered the game with a record of 4-11, 5.94 ERA (0-1, with four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched) also had a shaky start. Marcus Semien led off with a single to center. With number two hitter Laureano at the plate, Sparkman unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Semien to advance to second. A blink of the eye later, a balk sent Semien to third. There was a brief pause in the action when Chapman popped out to second, but Olson soon ended that by slicing a double to left, driving in both runners. In spite of another wild pitch, which allowed Olson to advance to third while Canha was at bat, and a walk to Canha, the A’s had to settle for a pair of runs after Seth Brown popped out to third and Khris Davis flew out to medium deep right field.
Jefferson Profar, batting lefty (his low average, high power side) opened the home second by sending a 1-2, 94 mph four seam fastball over the left field fence only to have Alex Gordon leap over the Ring Central sign to capture the flying pellet. Sean Murphy, followed Profar’s shot with a two bagger off the left field fence. His stay at second was a brief one. Semien got the green light on an 3-0 count. He also got the same pitch that had been served to Profar, but the A’s shortstop sent this one over the fence in center, and no one in uniform caught it. Oakland now was up, 4-1 DH Jorge Soler’s 45th home run of the season, leading off the fourth, landed in the center field seats, 451 feet from home, and narrowed the A’s advantage to 4-2. Dozier followed that with a double to left, and after Roark hit Gordon with a pitch, the potential tying run was at the plate in the person of Bubba Starling. He walked on a 3-2 count, and now the tying runs were on the three bases with nobody out. And Yusmeiro Petit was warming up in the A’s bullpen. Ryan O’Hearn worked the count to 3-2 before striking out on a 92 mph two-seamer. Meibrys Viloria also went down swinging on a 3-2 offering, another two-seam, 92 mph fast ball.
The count also was 3-2 on Brett Phillips when he went to down on strikes, but Phillips didn’t swing on his 92 mph two-seam fast ball. (Roark had struck out all the three of those batters in their previous plate appearances of the night).
Roark found himself in trouble in the fifth as well. He surrendered a single to to Whit Merrifield, struck out Mondesí, and found himself with the potential tying runs in scoring position when Soler doubled to left center. Roark stayed in the game long enough to retire Dozier on a pop up to Profar and then was lifted so that the left-handed Jake Diekman could face the left handed hitting Alex Gordon. The move backfired; Gordon singled to right, driving in the two Royals baserunners. Bubba Sterling, up next, broke his bat on a grounder to Semien, whose throw to Olson looked on time to first base umpire Ryan Addition, but not to the reviewing umpires in New York, who reversed his call on appeal. The leading run now was on second in the person of Gordon. But Diekman struck out Ryan McBroom, batting for O’Hearn and remaining in the game to play first.
Roark’s final line was 4 1/3 innings pitched, four runs, all earned, on seven hits, one walk, eight strikeouts, one home run, and one hit batter. He threw 110 pitches, 67 strikes. He wouldn’t figure in the decision.
After Laureano had singled and Chapman struck out to start the A’s half of the fifth, lefty Tim Hill came in to face the A’s left-handed slugger, Matt Olson. Hill was successful, getting Olson to fly out to just short of the right field warning track. With the count 2-2 on Canha, Laureano put the possible tie breaking run in scoring position by stealing second, uncontested. But Canha grounded out to third, and the threat was dead.
Sparkman, like Roark, left with a record of 4 1/3 innings pitched, four runs (all earned) and one home run. His other figures were three walks and a strikeout, two wild pitches, and a balk. Of his 78 pitches, 40 were strikes. He, too, would not be credited or charged with a decision.
The score still was knotted at four-all when Yusmeiro Petit relieved Diekman in the top of the sixth with one out and one on to face the top of the KC order. It turned out he needed only one pitch to retire the side on an around the horn DP.
Scott Barlow was on the mound for the Royals when Profar, batting left-handed, bounced a triple off the center field fence in the bottom of the sixth. But there also were two outs, and Murphy’s nubber in front the plate ended the short-lived threat.
Petit would pitch one more frame, a 1-2-3 seventh, before giving way to Joakim Soria, who came in as Oakland’s set up man. He performed that role excellenty, getting the Royals to dance the conga (1, 2, 3, kick) in the eighth.
Olson greeted rookie reliever Gabe Speier with a majestic double off the right field wall. It was “hello, good-bye,” because Kevin McCarthy promptly relieved the reliever. Canha hit a sharp bounder to the mound, and Franklin Barreto, running for Olson, was caught between second and third. Before being put out, he prolonged the rundown long enough to allow Canha to reach second. When the count on Grossman had reached 3-0, the Royals elected to concede the fourth ball to him, putting runners on first and second with one down. Khris Davis came through with an RBI single to center, and once more the A’s were ahead. The run was charged to Speier.
Liam Hendriks came in to pitch the Kansas City ninth. That was no surprise. What were surprises were Meibrys Viloria’s game tying home run with one out, followed by Brett Phillips’ fly to the center field warning track that Laureano, now playing center, dropped for a two-base error. By this time, Merrifileld’s two-base hit, which brought in Phillips with the leading run, was almost expected. Somehow, the unusually vulnerable Hendriks avoided further trouble by closing down Kansas City on a fly to the right field warning track by Mondesí and a pop out to Murphy by Soler.
Ian Kennedy, the Royals closer, who had earned his 29th save on Thursday, came in to try for his 30th. Semien led off with a weak grounder to third that Dozier couldn’t come up with cleanly and which went for a hit. Laureano then flew out to shallow right, and Chapman went down swinging. Because Olson had been removed for a pinch runner, Chad Pinder, who was playing first in Olson’s stead, was all the stood between the A’s and a disappointing loss. He didn’t stand there long. Kennedy struck him out on a 95 mph fast ball.
McCarthy–now 4-2, 5.00 ERA–got the win, and Kennedy earned his 30th save. The usually impermeable Hendriks suffered his third loss and sixth blown safe.
Oakland now is eight games behind Houston, whose magic number to clinch the division title also is eight. The A’s, however, lead Tampa Bay by one game in the race to be home team in play-in game and are a game and a half ahead of Cleveland to reach that game. The Indians’ elimination number is 11. The A’s are one and two games ahead of the Rays and the Tribe, respectively, in the loss column.
Brett Anderson (12-9, 4.07 ERA) will go against Jorge López (4-7, 6.09 ERA) at 7:07 p.m. tomorrow evening.