A’s get back home and edge Cleveland 5-4 to open series

Oakland A’s Jed Lowrie (8) is congratulated by teammates after hitting a walk off two run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Oakland Coliseum Fri Jul 16, 2021 against visiting Cleveland. On the bottom left holding camera is A’s team photographer Michael Zagaris (AP News photo)

Cleveland 4 8 0

Oakland 5 12 0

By Lewis Rubman

Friday, July 16, 2021

OAKLAND–Baseball language has a way of misleading its users. We talk of the foul line and pole, foul places that are in fair territory. A pitcher for the home team who leaves the game after four and a half innings gets credit for five innings pitched.

That’s reasonable enough, but if he left before the third out, he’d been credited with four and two thirds of an inning pitched, which would be recorded in the box score as 4.2 innings, when as any numerically literate person could tell you that four and two thirds is annotated either as 4-2/3 or 4.667 (with as many sixes as you can stand until you finally throw up your hands and end it all with a seven). I mention this because tonight’s game at the Coliseum is widely considered to mark the opening of the second half of the 2021 season.

Let’s take a look at that. The A’s came into the game in second place in the AL West at 52-40 and are now 53-40 after their 5-4 Friday night win over Cleveland, three and a half games behind Houston. That’s 92 games played. The season is 162 games long, so the home team already had completed 56.8% of its scheduled games. That’s considerably more than half a season. (Cleveland, at 45-43, also had completed 56.8% of its allotted contests).

Before the game started, Oakland announced the return of Mitch Moreland from the puzzlingly named Injured List and Frank Schwindel’s return to Las Vegas. Moreland was in tonight’s lineup as DH. Mark Canha, however, remained on the IL with a strained left hip.

How the game would end also was a puzzle to the crowd of 12,361 until the last, improbable swing of Jed Lowrie’s bat. (Spoiler alert: the A’s won, 5-4).

A’s pitcher Sean Manaea, who started for the A’s after losing his last four starts, took the mound with a record of 6-6, 3.19. He got through the first four innings, although not without difficulty. A pretty line out double play, Andrus to Lowrie, got him out of trouble after a lead off walk to Bradley Zimmer followed by a wild pitch had put a runner in scoring position with none out and the top of the order coming to bat in the second. That twin killing made Ahmed Rosario’s subsequent double irrelevant.

Eli Morgan, toiling on the mound for Cleveland, wasn’t so lucky. After retiring the first two Oakland batters in the bottom of the third, the second out coming on Laureano’s shot to the warning track in center, the Indians’ right hande surrendered in rapid fire order a single to Andrus, a resounding double to Olson, and a Texas League double to Lowrie, and the A’s were on top, 2-0.

In the next frame, Moreland celebrated his return to action with a lead off home run off a 74 mph change up that left his bat at 106 mph and landed 395 feet away; over the right field fence. It was the veteran slugger’s seventh round tripper and 23rd RBI of the year.

Manaea’s shutout lasted until his fourth pitch in the top of the fifth, a 91 mph sinker on a 1-2 count that Roberto Pérez drove over the left field fence to close the gap to 4-1. The Indians’ catcher had entered the game hitting all of .163 but with five dingers to his credit.

The tribe drew even with the A’s in the visitors’ half of the sixth. Rosario hit a bouncer that skipped over Chapman’s head that Andrus, backing him up, made a good play on but wasn’t able to get the ball over to first in time to retire the runner. It was scored, properly, as a hit, thus preserving Chapman’s 50 game errorless streak. Singles by José Ramírez and Franmil Reyes brought Rosario home.

After Manaea struk out Bobby Bradley, Yusemeiro Petit entered the fray and retired the side but not before yielding a sacrifice fly to Harold Ramírez which platedd Ramírez with the tying run. That run, was charged to Manaea, who went 5-1/3 innings, allowing three runs, all earned, on seven and a wild pitch. He struck out seven, and 64 of his 96 deliveries were strikes. He left with a no decision.

Morgan didn’t come out for the Oakland sixth. His line was five innings pitched with the same amount of runs and hits that Manaea had allowed. He struck out six and threw 84 pitches, 56 for strikes. He, too, got a no decision. He was releieved by Phil Maton, followed, after a scoreless frame, by Bryan Shaw in the seventh.

Petit ended the sixth with minimal damage, but he couldn’t escape the seventh without surrendering the lead. The tie breaker came off the bat of Cleveland’s number nine hitter, who went deep, sending a line drive out of the park in center field, his first homer of the season. It came in his 99th at bat of the year.

The A’s threatened against Shaw when Olson slammed a one out double aginst the foot of the right center field fence and Lowrie sent him to third on a single to left. Chapman worked a full count before drawing a walk to load the bases, bringing Moreland to the plate. He struck out on three pitches; the last strike was a called one. That left it up to Sean Murphy, who also took a called third strike.

Jake Diekman pitched the eighth for Oakland. He faced the heart of the Cleveland order, José Ramírez, Reyes, and Bradley, and set them down in order. James Karinchak returned the favor with a 1-2-3 bottom of the eight, albeit he faced the eighth, ninth, and lead off hitters.

The A’s called on Sergio Romo to keep them within a run of the tribe in the top of the ninth. He succeeded, not allowing anyone to reach base, helped by a little leaping catch at the left field wall by Kemp for the final out.

Emmanuel Clase tried to close it out for Cleveland in the ninth. Andrus led off with a line single to right. Olson popped out to second. Lowrie came to the plate; Clase threw him three pitches at 100 mph or faster. He took 101 mph cutter for a ball, swung at and missed a 100 mph cutter, and then hit another 100 mph cutter into the right field night to give Oakland the unexpected but well earned win.

The win went to the resurgent Sergio Romo. He’s now 1-0 with an ERA of 4.00 The loss and blown save were charged to Clase, whose record sit at 3-5, with four blown saves (he’s recorded 11 saves in 15 opportunities). His ERA is 2.19.

Matt Chapman extended his errorless streak 51 games. The home run was Lowrie’s 11th, and the RBIs were his 43rd and 44th.

The teams will go at it against tomorrow, Saturday, afternoon at 1:07 in a battle of right handers. Cal Quantrill (1-2,4.23) will be on the bump for Cleveland with Frank Montás (8-7,4.41) going for Oakland.

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