Oakland Athletics’ Esteury Ruiz hits the game-wining RBI single against the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning at the Oakland Coliseum on Sun Apr 30, 2023 (AP News photo)
Cincinnati 010 003 000 – 4 12 1
Oakland. 200 100 101- 5. 9. 1
Sunday, April 30, 2023
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–The Las Vegas Athletics’ (6-23) farm team in Oakland went into today’s encounter with the Cincinnati Reds 12-16) with several dubious distinctions on the debit side of its balance sheet. They were tied for fourth place for the worst record after 28 games in major league history since 1901.
That includes the Federal League but not the Negro Leagues that have achieved posthumous big league status. They set the MLB record for most losses in April. Here the proviso is that opening day used to be April 15. The 226 runs their pitching staff had allowed were the most in major league history in a season’s first 28 games with the exception of the 1923 Philadelphia Phillies.
The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the A’s starting pitchers, with their 0-15, 8.68 records hold the record for longest winless streak to open a season in the history of the major leagues. The starters also had the highest ERA in the show, almost 2-1/2 runs higher than the Red Sox’ woeful rotation.
The bullpen’s ERA of 6.95 was a little better than the starters’ but still managed to be highest in the majors. The relievers are MLB’s worst in save percentage, is tied for least saves, and tied for second in blown saves. The Athletics also are tied for second worst in fielding percentage. Oh, and did I mention that Oakland’s team batting average is .227? It’s not at the very bottom of leader board, but it barely reaches mediocrity.
That’s why this afternoon’s 5-4 walk off win was such a surprise.
Ken Waldichuk (0-2, 7.82 at game time) represented this woeful crew on the mound. The 25 year old lefty, who came to the A’s last August in the deal that sent Frankie Montás and Lou Trivino to the Bronx, was opposed another southpaw, sophomore Nick Lodolo, 2-1, 6.31 this year and 6-8, 4.26 lifetime.
Oakland went ahead early. With two out and the bases empty, Brent Rocker, one of the few bright spots on the roster, singled to right and the up and down Jesús Aguilar brought him home with an authoritive 428 foot blast over the State Farm sign in left center field for his fifth home run of the season and a 2-0 Athletic lead.
In an all too familiar scenario, the Reds cut that advantage in half. Nick Senzel’s second round tripper of ’23 landed in the stairs separating the Coliseum proper from the seats at the base of Mt. Davis. It came off a hanging curve.
Rooker restored the A’s two run margin all by himself by leading off the hoe fourth with a 411 foot drive to left that just stayed fair. The curve he hit came in at 80.4 mph and left at 112 mph. It was his eighth home run and 21st RBI. Seeing number 25 trotting around third and heading towards home brought back memories.
Cincy threatened in the fifth. Matt Reynolds led off with a fly that dropped safely between Smith and Ruíz . José Barrero followed with a single to left that sent Fairchild to third, after which Barrero stole second. With two out, Waldichuk plunked Spencer Steer to clog the base paths. The A’s starter wiggled out of the jam by getting Fairchild to fly out to center.
The visitors surged ahead in their next turn at bat. With one away, Ramos singled to left and went to second on a similar hit by Senzel. Reynolds flew out to center for the second out, and that ended Waldichuk’s day’s work. Domingo Acevedo came on and yielded a particularly ugly single to TJ Friedl, pinch hitting for Barrero.
Fried smacked a liner up the middle that bounced off Acevedo, who unwisely decided to throw to first. The ball sailed into foul territory, and Ramos sailed all the way home, Senzel raced to third, and Friedl ended up at second on the error. Kevin Newman rubbed salt in Oakland’s wounds with an RBI single to right before Steer lined out to third. Cincinnati now lead, 4-3.
Waldichuk managed to escape with a no decision. In his 5-2/3 innings of work, he allowed three runs, all earned but one posthumous He walked one batter and hit another, struck out seven, and allowed six hits, one for the distance.
He threw 91 pitches, 59 for strikes. Acevedo, who followed Waldichuk was charged with a blown save. Adam Oller and Sam Moll kept Cincinnati off the board, and Zach Jackson pitched an heroic top of the ninth to get the win .
Lodolo also departed the scene early in the day. He lasted five frames and surrendered three tallies, all. earned. He gavee up five hits and hit one batter. Two of the hits he allowed left the park He struck out seven and, like Waldichuk, a no decision. 49 of his 70 offerings were considered strikes.
Rooker’s sac fly to left in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded reknotted the score. Peterson had led off with a ssafety to left center, been sacrificed to second by Kevin Smith and gone to second and then to third on Laureano’s infield hit.
The Reds almost won it in the top of the ninth. Newman led off the frame against Jackson with a single to left, and Steere’s double, also to left, put two men in scoring position with no outs and the heart of the order coming to bat. Two strike outs and a grounder to third, and the threat was gone.
The A’s pulled off their win in the bottom of the ninth. Peterson single to left. Smith dropped a bunt down the first base line. Reynolds, how playing first, also dropped the bunt. He picked it up and threw the ball away. The error gave Oakland two men in scoring position and the top of the order coming up.
Alexis Díaz came in to relieve Derek Law, who had relieved Buck Farmer, who had relieved Lucas Sims, who had relieved Lodolo. Díaz hit Ruíz with a pitch. Or so it seemed. But the Reds challenged the call, and New York reversed it. Ruíz had no other choice but to hit a walk off single to left.
The A’s will return to the Coliseum Tuesday evening to face the Seattle Mariners at 6:40pm. Logan Gilbert (1-1 ERA 4.23) will start for Seattle, and Mason Miller (0-1 ERA 6.48) will toe the rubber for the rebounding at denizens of the decrepit pleasure dome on the banks of the River Nimitz.