Athletics down Tigers 3-2 Wednesday to sweep the 3-game series on the road

DET Mengden

by Charlie O. Mallonee

Detroit — The Oakland Athletics have been the worst road team in all of baseball several times this season. They have been strong defenders of their home field, but the road has been their nemesis. Since a major league team plays 81 of their 162 games on the road, learning to win in the other guy’s park is mandatory.

The Athletics embarked on this nine-game road trip to Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit needing to prove to themselves that they could win on the road, and that is exactly what they did.

Wednesday in Detroit was a crowing effort for the A’s

The A’s had won the first two games of the series in Detroit. They had compiled a 5-3 record on the road. With Wednesday being a day/get-away game to head back to the Bay Area, it would have been very easy to have a mental let down and just go through the motions to get out of town in order to get home.

The Athletics did not do that. They played tough. They played solid defense behind their starting pitcher Daniel Mengden. The Athletics worked to get runs when they could and they won the game.

They also swept the three-game series at Comerica Park and finished the nine-game road trip with a record of 6-3.

Manager Bob Melvin was a happy man after the win on Wednesday

Pitching dictated the ultimate outcome of the game

Athletics starter Daniel Mengden threw seven shutout innings and extended his scoreless inning streak to 16-innings which is the longest for any A’s pitcher this season. He gave up no runs on seven hits. One of the big keys to his win was the fact that he did not issue a walk. Mengden struck out four Tigers. His record is now 2-1 with an ERA of 3.30.

Ryan Dull came to relieve Mengden in the eighth inning and set the Tigers down in order. It looked like the final inning would be uneventful.

Dull came out for the ninth because Melvin was hoping to rest his overworked bullpen. Dull walked the first batter he faced — Efren Navarro. Mikie Mahtook then hit a 1-1 pitch from Dull for a double that moved Navarro up to third. Pitching coach Scott Emerson came out for a visit before Dull went back to work.

Dull struck out the next batter he faced — pinch-hitter Tyler Collins — for the first out of the inning. Andrew Romine then stepped into the box and hit a single to right that drove Navarro and Mahtook home to make it a 3-2 game.

That was all for Dull as Bob Melvin brought Liam Hendriks in from the pen. There was also an injury delay as catcher Bruce Maxwell had to come out of the game after taking a ball off the mask. He was replaced by Phegley.

Hendricks was able to get Jose Iglesias to ground into a force out that erased Romine and left Iglesias at first on the fielder’s choice. With Alex Presley batting, Iglesias moved up to second on a wild pitch. Presley struck out swinging to end the game.

Hendricks was credited with a save but more importantly he put up a “Goose Egg” meaning he did not allow a run to score.

Detroit pitching

Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez pitched six-innings and allowed just one run (earned) on three hits. He walked three A’s and struck out eight. Sanchez threw an incredible 115 pitches (68 strikes). He was also tagged with the loss, so his record falls to 3-5.

The big problem for Detroit was their bullpen failed in its effort to throw “Goose Eggs”. Daniel Stumpf took over Sanchez in the seventh inning and gave up the two-run home to Marcus Semien that was the ultimate difference maker in the game.

Joe Jimenez and Zac Reininger each worked an inning of relief for Detroit and both posted “Goose Eggs” in the run column.

A’s batters

Marcus Semien was the man for Oakland in the big win on Wednesday. He not only hit the game deciding two-run home run in the seventh inning, but Semien posted all three of the Athletics RBI. In the series, he went 4-for-10 and scored four runs.

Catcher Bruce Maxwell went 2-for-4 in the game with a double and two runs scored. He is now hitting .315 in day game versus .205 under the lights. Guess who is catching the day games? Also, the initial reports are that Maxwell does not appear to have a concussion from the foul tip that caused him to leave the game in the ninth inning.

The Athletics scored three runs on six hits and left seven men on base. Their record improved to 69-83.

Detroit hitting

Nicholas Castellanos hit a single in the sixth inning which extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games. He hit .346 against the A’s in 2017.

Efren Navarro hit a single in the second inning that upped his hitting streak to five games. He now batting .400 — 6-for-15 — with a double and triple during the streak.

The Tigers posted two runs off nine hits and left eight runners on base. They also committed two errors. Detroit’s record now stands at 62-90.

Up next

The Athletics left for the Bay Area right after the game and will have Thursday off. The A’s begin a three-game series in Oakland with the Rangers on Friday night. RHP Kendall Graveman (5-4, 4.39) is scheduled to start for the Athletics. Texas has not named their starter.

The Tigers continue their homestand on Thursday as they begin a four-game series with the Twins.

Gray’s 12 K’s Not Enough For A’s Against LeBlanc, Halos

By Matthew T.F. Harrington

OAKLAND, Calif. – Despite a dominant rebound performance from starter Sonny Gray at the O.Co Coliseum Tuesday night, the Oakland Athletics once again found their efforts to string together three consecutive wins come up short.

After dropping game two of a three game series against the 2014 American League West Champion Los Angeles Angels 2-0, the Green and Gold (86-71) still seek their first uninterrupted trio of wins since August 7-9. Wade LeBlanc pitched 5 2/3 of shutout innings for the Halos, while former Athletic Houston Street nailed down his 40th save of the season after retiring the side in order.

The Athletics loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth inning with reliever Joe Smith on the mound and two men retired, but Stephen Vogt’s fly-out derailed the Oakland rally.

“I left a small village of runners in scoring position tonight,” said Vogt. “It’s really frustrating to not get them in.”

It marked only the second time all night the home team advanced a runner past second base. In total, the A’s left eight runners on base.

“That’s baseball in a nutshell,” said Vogt. “It’s frustrating, absolutely. But just because we didn’t have offense today doesn’t mean our offense isn’t good. I think we’re still playing good baseball right now, we just didn’t get any hits when we needed them tonight.”

An Oakland loss, paired with a Kansas City Royals win in Cleveland, knots the two squads up with identical records in the chase for the top Wild Card spot and home-field advantage in the one-game playoff. Despite the result Tuesday, the A’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth drops to three games by way of a Seattle Mariners lost. Just five regular season games remain.

Gray (13-10, 3.21 ERA) recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts, including three by potential AL Most Valuable Player Mike Trout, yielding only two runs in the losing effort.

“He came in the dugout with this look in his eye,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “He was going to get after it. Unfortunately we didn’t give him the support. Three hits and he struck out nine of the first 12 guys. Everything was working today.”

Gray’s ability to rack up strikeouts in a hurry wasn’t lost on his teammates.

“I looked up in the fifth and he had ten punch-outs,” said Vogt. “That was a remarkable thing. He threw the ball well. We had some opportunities to score runs and we just weren’t able to come through.”

The youthful right-hander picked up eight of his first nine outs on K’s and nine of his first 12 by way of the whiff. It was the one non-strikeout that made him the hard luck loser against Los Angeles (97-61).

With runners on first and third and one out in the second inning, Gray caught Hank Conger swinging at strike three. The runner at first, Efren Navarro, took off with the pitch, drawing a throw from catcher Geovany Soto.

“There was a miscommunication on that,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “Aybar was coming down the line. We needed to stop the run there.”

With Erick Aybar crashing down the line from third base after the throw to second, Navarro froze between second and third base. Already dead to rights on the Soto throw, Navarro stalled long enough in a pickle for Aybar to cross the plate.

“He’s fast,” said Gray of the Angels shortstop. “He puts pressure on the defense, as you could see there. He’s a good player, he has good baseball instincts.”

The Angels added another run in the sixth inning after Gordon Beckham ripped a solo home to left field for the only earned run of the day. The long ball stood as the Angels first hit since the second inning as well as the third and final hit the visitors would collect on the evening.

Gray’s LA counterpart, starter Wade LeBlanc, managed to tame the A’s bats despite a repertoire of pitches that don’t break the 90 mph barrier. The Southpaw fired 5 2/3 innings, allowing only five hits to the Oakland hitters. The A’s didn’t manage a base runner to reach second base off LeBlanc until Josh Reddick’s doubled with one out in the fifth inning.

“He did a good job mixing his pitches,” said Vogt. “He didn’t really miss over the plate tonight. Typically, a guy like that, a junk baller, he knows how to pitch. That’s one thing about Wade LeBlanc, he knows how to pitch. He’s a really good pitcher. How you take advantage of those guys is when he makes mistakes over the plate, and he didn’t do that tonight.”

Of the five A’s hits off LeBlanc, four came counter to the lefty-vs-lefty pitcher’s advantage with Reddick (two hits), Sam Fuld and Eric Sogard all reaching base.

LeBlanc (1-1, 4.23) started the season in the minor leagues with the Angels, ultimately making his first Major League appearance at Oakland May 30th. LeBlanc pitched 6 1/3 innings of relief against the Athletics after starter Garret Richards exited with a season-ending knee injury, his longest outing to date this season.

Following his lone stint of game action, LeBlanc was claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees on June 3rd. 12 days later, after only one inning of two run work against the A’s later, the Yankees granted the 30 year old free agency. The Lake Charles, La. native returned to the Angels roster on June 17th. Since then, he has made eight appearances, including two starts before his season-best Tuesday evening outing.

Manager Mike Scioscia tabs a third-straight left-hander to pitch Wednesday afternoon’s series finale. Hector Santiago takes the mound in the rubber match. Melvin counters with a lefty of his own, sending trade deadline acquisition Jon Lester to the hill. The winner of Wednesday’s contest takes the season series with each side claiming nine wins apiece in head-to-head play.