Reality Sets In: A’s drub Mariners, 10-3 as reminder their path to the post-season isn’t completed

By Morris Phillips

For the Mariners, Friday’s celebratory release has ended. On Sunday, the A’s pre-empted the hosts’ post-season party and staged one of their own.

Shea Langeliers, Cristian Pache and Nick Allen homered off Seattle starter Robbie Ray and the A’s built a 10-0 lead on the way to a 10-3 win at T-Mobile Park.

The A’s interrupted a six-game losing skid with the win, and moved closer to insuring that the Washington Nationals will finish with the Majors’ worst won-loss record, not Oakland.

The Mariners lost ground to the Blue Jays with the loss in their race to determine the host of their likely, three-game Wild Card series beginning on Friday. The Jays beat Boston on Sunday and can insure that they’ll host the series with any combination of Toronto wins and Seattle losses that adds up to two.

Manager Scott Servais characterized his club’s low-energy performance Sunday while likely attempting to calculate how fiercely they should approach their final four games against the Tigers, which are shoe-horned into a three-day span.

“There’s been a lot of emotion around our team here in the last four or five days and I think you saw a little bit of the wind out of our sails today,” Servais said.

With the new-playoff format, the Mariners could go from the high of ending their unprecedented 21-year post-season drought to the reality that the renewed love affair between themselves and their fans could end Wednesday. The visitor in the opening series faces the reality that they could be eliminated without hosting any playoff games.

“We’re at the point where you almost got to win out,” Servais noted.

The A’s took control on two fronts Sunday. James Kaprelian pitched no-hit baseball into the sixth inning before allowing a single to Ty France. At that point, the A’s led 6-0. Kaprelian walked two, struck out seven and departed after retiring Eugenio Suarez to end the sixth. His win-loss record (5-9) may not reflect it, but Kaprelian’s growth as a starter is apparent.

After a two-week pause beginning August 31, Kaprelian has made four starts and equaled or surpassed his innings pitched and the pitch count reached in his initial 23 starts of the season. Translated, he’s establishing himself as someone the A’s can count on to get deep in games going forward.

“It was a good finish for James in terms of his bounce back from some struggles in the middle of the season to ending this month and really performing well,” manager Mark Kotsay said.

Conversely, Ray left too many pitches in the strike zone and the A’s didn’t miss them. His three home runs allowed tied a season-high, and he walked three batters in the second inning as a precursor to falling into serious trouble in the fourth and fifth.

“This is one that just, flush it and move on. I’m not going to let it take away from what I’ve been able to do this year,” Ray said.

Ernie Clement, in just his third start for the A’s, and Allen both came up with terrific defensive plays, throwing runners out after cat-quick diving stops. Langeliers homered in the fourth, and again in the ninth, a three-run shot off Penn Murfee.

The A’s conclude the season at the Coliseum against Anaheim. Adrian Martinez gets the start in Monday’s opener opposite Patrick Sandoval for the Angels.

A’s String Together Wins: Oakland holds on, wins 5-3 in Kansas City finale

By Morris Phillips

It’s been awhile since the A’s have given as good as they’ve got with the season falling off most measurable charts after an 8-6 start devolved into a 24-49 June reality.

But on Sunday afternoon, they’ve gave and got change back and a dose of respect. In a game the A’s led 2-0, then trailed 3-2 briefly, before rebuilding a 4-3 lead in the seventh and 5-3 in the ninth, they held on. Lou Trivino was given another opportunity to close and he did–with the tying runs in scoring position–retiring the last two batters in a 5-3 win over the Royals.

The A’s avoided a ninth, consecutive series loss and won the final two games in Kansas City after losing 3-1 on Friday night. The win also reveals a weird juxtaposition in which the A’s are 4-19 in series openers but are 11-12 in the finales, which suggests this inexperienced clubs needs time to adjust to new surroundings.

Next up, the adjustment gets a little bit speedier with Oakland traveling to New York for a four-game set against the Yankees, who could be a bit cantankerous following a 3-4 week and some tough contests with the AL West-leading Astros. The A’s will be trying to avoid an 11th consecutive series-opening loss on Monday night.

Starting pitcher James Kaprelian set the tone by pitching into the sixth inning, and allowing just two hits. In the sixth, Kaprelian gave up consecutive walks to Andrew Benintendi and Bobby Witt Jr. to load the bases, and was relieved by Sam Moll. But after striking out MJ Melendez, Moll allowed consecutive RBI base hits to Carlos Santana and Edward Olivares to put the Royals in front 3-2.

“He almost ended up on the wrong side of it with a fluke hit that falls in thankfully we were able to get him off the hook and get him a win,” manager Mark Kotsay said of Kaprelian.

Olivares’ hit produced a scary moment when a stumbling Jonah Bride ran into outfielder Chad Pinder, felling both A’s for several minutes. But miraculously, given the intensity of the collision, both appeared okay, although Bride did leave the game at that point.

Nick Allen’s single to center scored two runs in the top of the seventh, allowing the A’s to regain the lead for good. That rally was set up when Royals’ starter Brady Singer attempted to field a potential double play ball, and had it glance off his mitt, then away from infielder Whit Merrifield, putting A’s on second and third with two outs.

The A’s gained insurance–itself a rarity for the A’s in their 9-29 slide–with a ninth inning Pache RBI single, and then manager Mark Kotsay called on Lou Trivino to close it out.

Lou let me know he was good for one inning and I let him know that if that was the case he’d be in the ninth,” Kotsay said. “Obviously it wasn’t easy but he got the job done.”

Paul Blackburn and New York’s Jordan Montgomery are the announced starters for Monday’s opener at Yankee Stadium.

A’s outlast Texas in mistake -filled contest, win 6-5 and avoid a series sweep

By Morris Phillips

OAKLAND–The Oakland Coliseum was the Field of Dreams Sunday afternoon, a venue for second chances where Major League teams normally aren’t afforded unlimited numbers.

With both teams gathering and bungling, the winning A’s were actually afforded an 18th opportunity to knock in a runner in scoring position–3 1/2 hours after the first pitch–and they responded with Jed Lowrie’s game-winning single to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers.

“We didn’t cash in on a lot of opportunities but when it counted we did,” Lowrie said of the rollercoaster-like 6-5 win. “At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Something to work on but we got the win.”

The A’s trailed the first 7 1/2 innings and took the lead, only to let the Rangers tie it without needing a hit. The winning rally was realized with two outs in the ninth, and extra innings–and likely four plus hours of baseball–staring the teams in the face.

“Leaving guys on base early, they just kept going,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “We want that to be our identity. We want teams to know, whether we win or lose, when they leave this place, that this team has fight and grit.”

The Rangers nearly left with four, consecutive wins but were dragged down by a season-worst five errors, the most egregious belonging to Marcus Semien, who failed to make a routine throw to the plate to cut down Ramon Laureano with the lead run in the eighth.

But Semien got his new team back in it in the top of the ninth by drawing a walk, stealing second, and eventually scoring on Dany Jimenez’ wild pitch.

Brett Martin was entrusted with giving Texas a chance to get to extras but he gave up a base hit to Christian Pache, who moved up on Laureano’s ground out, then scored on Lowrie’s base hit. The A’s were 2 for 19 with runners in scoring position before Lowrie ended it, an obvious nod to how many scoring chances they realized and squandered throughout the afternoon.

Rangers starter Dane Dunning escaped a two on, one out, and a bases loaded situation unscathed in the first five innings. The A’s couldn’t corral Dunning’s slower than slow slider, or his change up. Dunning’s other pitches got him into trouble as the starter yielded seven hits, three walks and a hit batsman in four innings plus but departed with a 4-0 lead after trouble surfaced in the fifth.

Sean Murphy got the A’s on the board with a double down the line that scored Lowrie. Dennis Santana, who relieved Dunning, also allowed Elvis Andrus’ RBI double and was on the mound when Andy Ibanez’ fielding error allowed Andrus to score the A’s third run.

Oakland starter James Kaprelian gave up home runs in the first (Corey Seager) and third (Brad Miller) that gave Texas a lead. Kaprelian, like Dunning, couldn’t survive the fifth, departing with four runs allowed on six hits.

The first-place Astros and manager Dusty Baker visit the Coliseum on Memorial Day with Paul Blackburn aiming for a 6-0 start to his season. Blackburn and his 1.70 ERA will be matched with Houston’s Framber Valdez at 1:07pm.

Guardians Make Them Fend For Themselves: Kaprelian roughed up in season debut, A’s lose 7-3

By Morris Phillips

OAKLAND, CA–Comfortable opponents are bad news. The Guardians’ Tristan McKenzie was that guy Sunday, mowing down A’s hitters at the Coliseum like he owned the place.

McKenzie pitching into the seventh inning, scattering three hits, and departed with a 6-0 lead. Throughout the 24-year old’s confidence and command of his pitches dominated the afternoon. The Guardians cruised to a 7-3 win and a road sweep of the weekend series.

“To call pitches for a guy like that is awfully fun because even when he’s got something else in mind, you really can’t go wrong when he executes well,” McKenzie’ catcher Luke Maile said of him.

“There were times where he lost the strike zone, but he reeled it back in in a hurry, as opposed to 3-4 hitters,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

“For me to be successful, a lot of it is mixing my pitches up and keeping guys guessing,” McKenzie said. “We stuck to the game plan really well today.”

Getting just one runner in scoring position was challenging for Oakland, and didn’t happen until McKenzie was at the end of his shift in the seventh. The loss marked a continuation of the host’s tip-your-hat portion of the schedule. The A’s have managed just three runs or less in eight of their most recent 10 games.

The A’s biggest moments came in the ninth when they narrowed a 7-0 deficit with three runs on the strength of Kevin Smith’s RBI double, which was preceded by Chad Pinder’s RBI sacrifice fly, and Christian Bethancourt’s pinch-hit double. The loss was their sixth in the last eight games.

“It was a tough series for us, losing those first two games the way we did,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “Going into today, I thought we had good energy, but we fell behind, and when you get behind, it puts a lot of pressure on our offense.”

James Kaprelian’s season debut was disturbing in that the returning starter said afterwards he felt fine but couldn’t find the strike zone in a ragged stretch in the third inning. Kaprelian dutifully rehabbed his shoulder only to see 12 of his final 13 pitches Sunday translate to three, consecutive walks.

“I pride myself in being able to attack guys and throw strikes and pitch off my fastball and I didn’t do that,” Kaprelian said. “I just need to do a better job, flat-out.”

The A’s trailed 5-0 after Kaprelian’s departure, 6-0 after four, and 7-0 after six innings. Pinder was the only Athletic to get a second hit but he was written into the seventh slot in Kotsay’s batting order.

The A’s face the Rays at the Coliseum on Monday night, the opener of a three-game set. Daulton Jeffries gets the start opposite Tampa Bay’s Drew Rasmussen.