It’s been that kind of a homestand for the Oakland A’s as the hot corner is too hot for A’s third baseman Matt Chapman who can’t handle a hard hit ball against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Oakland Coliseum on Mon Apr 5, 2021 (AP News photo)
Los Angeles (NL). 10-14-1
Oakland. 3- 6 -1
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–In every one of Oakland’s four season opening loses to Houston, there was at least one point at which the A’s could have either burst the game open in their favor or convert a seemingly commanding Astros lead into a tight match. In every case, the failure to capitalize on Houston’s momentary vulnerability turned the series into a festival of blown chances. Tonight, Oakland didn’t even come close.
In a sense, the A’s pitching staff is emblematic of the team’s inability to make the potential actual. A.J. Puk, Jesús Luzardo and Sean Manaea are young hurlers of tremendous talent, just short of unlocking the door to success. Tonight’s starter against the 3-1 Los Angeles Dodgers, Frankie Montás is another member of that group seeking to take the final step into the role of reliable top of the line starter.
He went 9-2, 2.63 in 2019, the last time MLB played a full season. MLB’s season lasted 162 games, but Montas’s didn’t; the was suspended for 80 days, June 21 to September 24, for drug use. He seemed ready to resume his progress last year, ready enough to be the A’s (delayed) opening day starter and be named the AL’s player of the week for August 3-9.
But he missed his next start because of back troubles and didn’t pitch well again until the final game of the regular (if you can say that about 2020) season. He won a wild card series game in relief and pitched well for three innings in the last game of the division series only to fall apart in the fourth frame to take the loss.
During this year’s spring training, he lost time to a stint on the covid list. As if that weren’t enough, Montás was forced to leave the last start of his abbreviated Cactus League season with a cuticle tear on the middle finger of his right, pitching, hand.
His performance tonight did nothing to advance his career. And the A’s anemic hitting did nothing to offset his disappointing mound work.
Dustin May, the starter for the NL West leading Dodgers , already seems to have established himself as a front line hurler. Promoted after 15 starts for AA Tulsa to AAA Oklahoma City, Los Angeles called him to the show in mid 2019. He went 3-1, 2.57 and threw 3-1/3 innings against the Nationals in the division series, yielding three hits and a run, for an ERA of 2. 70.
Last year, still technically a rookie, he was the Dodgers’ opening day starter. In that assignment, he gave up one run, this time in 4-1/3 frames. He went on to finish the season at 3-1, 2.57, with 16 walks against 44 strike outs. Among National League pitchers who went 50 or more innings, he ranked eighth in ERA, 13th in opponents’ BA (.222), and tied for 12th in WHIP at 1.09. He faced the A’s once, on September 22, and beat them.
His post seson record was more extensive than it had been a year earlier. He made three starts and four relief appearances, with combined totals of 1-0,4.22, and 13 punch outs. The Dodgers’ game notes report that he went 3-0 , 2.37, with 21 strikeouts and four walks in four starts and one relief stint in spring training this year. His four seamer was the fastest of any major league pitcher with 40 IP or more, an average of 99.1 mph.
Los Angeles jumped off to a fairly early and fairly significant lead in the top of the second. With one out, Max Muncy hit an opposite field single to left. Then Chris Taylor lifted a fly to medium left field that eluded a diving Tony Kemp, subbing for the ailing Chad Pinder. After a walk to Edwin Ríos loaded the bases, Zach McKinstry´s sac fly to left drove in the first run of the game.
Then, Matt Chapman couldn’t handle Mookie Betts’ hard smash down the third base line. That infield hit reloaded the bases, and Corey Singer unloaded them with a double off the centerfield wall, to the right of the STREAM YOUR A’S sign. The A’s now were down, 4-0.
Will Smith promptly made it 5-0 with his line drive that curved around the left field foul line on a 2-2 88 mph spliterfast with one down in the visitor’s third. Muncy followed that with a single to center, and then Montás plunked Taylor to put men on first and second. After another out, McKinstry´s single to right brought in Muncy with the Angelinos´ seventh run. A walk to Betts, and Montás was through for the night. AJ Puk relieved him, making his season debut.
Montás´s ugly line for 2-2/3 innings was seven runs, all earned, on seven hits, a home run, three walks, a wild pitch, and a hit batter He managed to strike out seven. Of his 90 pitches, 53 were strikes. His HBP of Taylor caused the Dodgers’ second baseman to leave the game.
Puk put out the fire in the third, but loaded the bases with two out in the fourth. He escaped unscathed thanks to second straight inning ending strkeout. When he left the game after closing out the LA sixth, his stint was your Á´s highlight for the night. In 3-1/3 innings, 35 of his 53 offerings counted as strikes.
He surrendered but one hit, but gave up three walks and a wild pitch, while striking out four. His replacement was left handed sidewinder Adam Kolarek, who gave up a run, earned, in his inning on the mound before giving way to Sergio Romo in the eighth.
May also finished up his work after the sixth. His performance had been superb. He surrendered two hits and two walks while striking out eight. His pitch count was 85, only 28 of which were balls.
Romo was tagged for a homer to center on his third pitch to Justin Taylor, the first man he faced. The A’s suffered an egregious lapse during Romo’s brief tenure. With Will Smith on first and one out, pinch hitter Matt Bealy, hit a grounder to shortstop Elvis Andrus, playing to the right of second. Andrus tried for the unassisted putout at second but bobbled the ball, leaving both batter and runner safe. Then, while none of the A’s seemed to be paying attention, Taylor advanced uncontestedly to third.
Canha saved a shred of the Athletics’ honor with a round tripper to left to lead off the bottom of the eighth off Mays’ replacement, David Price. That reduced LA’s lead to 9-1. The A’s racked up a couple of tallies more on a walk to Lowrie, a single to right by Piscotty, batting for Moreland, an infield hit by Chapman that plated Lowrie, and Ka’ai Tom’s first big league hit, an RBI single to center.
Reymin Gudjuan tried to mop up for the A’s. Both he and Cody Bellinger had to leave the game in the top of the night when they ran into each other while Bellinger was beating out a 3-1 infield single. By then the Dodgers had run the score up to 10-3. JB Wendelken was called on to try to get the last out of the inning and stop the carnage. He succeeded and, in doing so, lowered Gudjuan’s ERA to … 27.00.
Three hours and 35 minutes after the first pitch, Scott Alexander closed out the game, setting the A’s down in order.
Tomorrow’s game will start at 6:40. Clayton Kershaw (0-1, 7.94) is scheduled to face off against Chris Bassitt (0-1, 5.06).