A’s just can’t score runs as Royals take advantage 5-1

Oakland Athletics left fielder Chad Pinder gets in the left field corner to make a brilliant catch on a ball hit by Kansas City Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. in the top of the six inning at the Oakland Coliseum on Friday, June 17, 2022 (AP News photo)

Kansas City. 5. 11. 0

Oakland. 1. 5. 1

Friday, June 17, 2022

By Lewis Rubman

OAKLAND–The Oakland A’s (22-44) and the Kansas City Royals (22-41) went into tonight’s encounter fairly evenly matched. Both teams had won the last game of their previous series, KC squeezing past the Giants 3-2 at Oracle Park on Wednesday and the A’s hanging on to beat the Red Sox 4-3 at Fenway Thursday.

That brought the season’s record for the visitors to 21-41, which left them in the cellar of the AL Central with an average of .339 ,and gave Oakland a mark of 21-43, .338, fifth in the five team AL West. The Royals would pick up their 22nd victory on Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum with a 5-1 win against their host the A’s.

The Royals were outhitting the Athletics .238 to .211, but the green and gold’s staff ERA was 4.44 against the midwesterners’ 5.12. As the one time manager of the Oakland Oaks, Casey (from KC) Stengel, wryly remarked, “Good pitching always beats good hitting and vice versa.”

When tonight’s dust had settled, the won and lost figures for the midwesterners were 22-41, and those of the hometown crew had fallen to 21-44.

Righty Frankie Montás, taking the mound at 3-6, 3.40 last pitched on June 11, where he won the first of the A’s two victories in that disastrous nine game trip. With his arsenal of fastballs, changeups, sliders, and cutters, he is a prime candidate for the Next Athletic To Be Traded Award.

Kansas City chose tonight’s starter, Daniel Lynch, as their first pick in the 2018 draft. The southpaw quickly rose through their ranks, arriving in the show in 2021 and managing to go 4-5, albeit with an ERA of 5.84. He features a fastball, a slider, and a change of pace.

Montás got into hot water early. Whit Merrifield pulled the second pitch of the game into left for a lead off single and was on second one pitch later after Andrew Benintendi’s opposite field single through the hole between short and third.

The Oakland starter earned himself a brief respite striking out Bobby Witt, Jr. but allowed clean up hitter Salvador Pérez a run scoring two base hit to center that sent Merrifield home and Benintendi to third.

After striking out MJ Meléndez, Montás walked Hunter Dozier to load the bases but escaped further damage by getting Kyle Isabel to foul out to Seth Brown at first.

The hot water got closer to a boil in the top of the second. Nicky López drove a one out single up the middle and advanced to second on a wild pitch before Merrifield went down swinging on a 3-2 cutter.

Benintendi drove him in with his second single to left in two innings. Montás closed down the frame by fanning Witt, also for the second time in as many innings. It was Montás’ fourth strike out, but the A’s now were down 2-0.

Between the top and the bottom of the second, first base umpire Charlie Ramos replaced crew chief Ron Kulpa behind the plate. No reason was given

The momentum shifted after Lynch retired Matt Davidson and Seth Brown to open their half of the second. Elvis Andrus hit a clean single to center and motored to third on Jonah Bride’s single to left.

Bride, recently called up from AA Midland, moved into scoring position when Lynch unleashed a wild pitch to Christián Pache, who eventually walked, clogging the base baths with Oaklanders. Chad Pinder then ripped a single to right, which plated Andrus. The ball was so well hit that Bride had to hold up at second.

It was a good thing he did because Kyle Isbel made a beautiful throw home that would have nabbed him. But Laureano grounded out to short, and the inning ended with Oakland trailing 2-1. Three men left on base. Where have I heard that song before?

Montás coughed the run his defense had just earned him, surrendering a 422 foot blast to center that went for Salvador Pérez’s tenth round tripper of the year. It came off of a 95mph four seamer. Thanks to a 6-4-3 twin killing and a fly to right, that was all the damage KC could inflict on the Athletics in that episode.

A pitcher’s best friend, this time Andrus unassisted to Brown, kept the Royals off the board in the fourth in spite of their two hits, both singles.

It looked as if the double play would once more help Montás escape trouble when, with Witt on first with a lead off single in the fifth, Pérez hit a bouncer to Davidson at the hot corner. But the ball skipped right by the rookie, Pérez reached at first and Witt was, briefly, on third before coming home on MJ Meléndez’s sacrifice fly to deep right.

Pérez took second on a wild pitch to Hunter Dozier, who finished his at bat grounding out to short. With two out and runners on first and second Michael Taylor popped up to third on Montás’s hundredth pitch.

But Davidson just stood there as pellet fell to earth for what the rules mandate had to be scored as a single. Montás finished the inning and his start by making a fine play to throw López out at first on a little nubber he hit between the mound at the plate.

It was a hell of a way to end an outing. Montás had lasted five innings and thrown 103 pitches, 62 for strikes. He allowed five runs, three of them earned, on ten hits, one of them a home run, three walks, and two wild pitches. He struck out four. He took the loss, giving him a record of 3-6, 3.53. Austin Pruitt replaced him in the sixth.

Pruitt didn’t receive any better infield support than Montás did. The first batter he faced, Merrifield, sent a bouncing ball to Davidson, I should say THROUGH to Davidson, that Andrus, backing up the recently promoted third sacker Davidson, fielded but wasn’t able to deliver to first on time. Again, it had to be called a hit.

The reliever did benefit from two fine catches by Pinder in left. On a leaping grab on the warning track, the other a running leaping grab at the wall. He managed to finish up the frame unscored upon and stay on the mound to pitch a perfect seventh and eighth.

Lynch also lasted five innings, during which he threw 99 pitches, 67 of which were deemed strikes. Like Montás he threw two wild pitches, but he allowed only a single run, which was earned, on four hits and two walks. His strikeout total, ten, equaled the number of hits Montás had yielded.

Lynch got the win, making him 3-6, 5,19 for the year. His replacement to open the Oakland sixth was right hander Dylan Coleman who needed 23 pitches to the A’s down and out before yielding to Taylor Clarke after the seventh inning stretch.

He retired them to a conga beat, 1-2-3 in his first inning of relief and put down the two batters he faced in the two-thirds of an inning that he hurled in the eighth. Lefty Gabe Speier took care of the third out and came back to face two A’s in the ninth, walking Brown and getting Andrus out on a liner to deep center.

Lou Trivino, once the mainstay of Oakland’s bullpen, came in to face the Royals in their half of the ninth, hardly the high leverage situation in which he was used in his hayday. He put KC away, allowing only a walk, helped by a beautiful backhanded catch and leaping throw to first by Andrus.

After Speier retired Andrus, Josh Staumont was given the ball. He walked Bride, sending Brown to second. Luis Barrera, who had hit for Pache in the seventh and stayed in the game as right fielder, fanned. With two down, Stephen Vogt pinch hit for Pinder and flew out to right.

The series continues with a pair of day games over the weekend. Saturday’s game starts at 1:07 with Cole Irvin (2-3,3.34) going for Oakland against Kansas City’s Brad Keller (1-8,4.74).

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