OAKLAND–The A’s hope Sunday’s rousing finish signals the beginning of a fourth chapter of what has been a very, complicated story to their season.
If so, the dramatic elements were present, and the timing couldn’t be any be better for an Oakland bunch that simply has been hard to figure out.
The A’s got a two-run homer from Tony Kemp in the eighth inning to break up a 1-1 tie and propel them to a series split with the Wild Card-leading Yankees with a 3-1 win. The A’s avoided a 2-7 finish to their homestand, which would have been their worst showing since 2001. Instead, they gained ground on the Yankees, Red Sox in the wild card hunt and moved to within 5 1/2 games of the Astros in the race for the AL West.
In a game dominated by pitching and defense–both scintillating and head-scratchingly poor–Kemp’s home run was only the second extra-base hit of the evening, and came one pitch after the first, a scalding double by Mark Canha that set the stage for Kemp’s heroics.
“The last thing I was trying to do was hit a home run right there,” Kemp said. “I saw a good pitch and put my best swing on it, and I think I was as surprised as everybody else was in the stands.”
After opening the season 0-6, the A’s soared to a stretch of 44 wins in 65 games, including a 13-game win streak. Since then they’re 28-32 and were a season-worst 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot entering Sunday’s contest. To put it mildly, Sunday’s stand against the Yankees, just off their own 13-game win streak, was put up or shut up.
Both starting pitchers were outstanding. New York’s Jordan Montgomery went six innings, allowing six hits and a run on Matt Chapman’s RBI fielder’s choice ground out. Paul Blackburn put up five, scoreless innings allowing five hits and a walk while departing with a 1-0 lead.
The A’s bullpen appeared equal to the task of backing up Blackburn, but were burned by consecutive errors in the seventh. Catcher Yan Gomes dropped a foul pop between third and home that extended Anthony Rizzo’s at-bat, and allowed him to deliver a ground ball that Chapman misplayed between his legs for an error that allowed Gary Sanchez to score from second and tie the game.
The back-to-back errors came during a streak in which the A’s committed just three miscues in their last 14 games.
In the eighth, the A’s took advantage of Chad Green, the third New York reliever who gave up Canha’s double and Kemp’s home run. Reliever Deolis Guerra pitched a scoreless eighth to earn the win for the A’s.
The A’s back-to-back wins follow a stretch of six, consecutive losses and losses in 10 of 12 games. On a positive note, the stretch precedes a three-game series in Detroit that starts Tuesday, followed by a trip to Toronto and home games against the White Sox. The A’s have had success this season against AL Central opponents, which they hope continues against the Tigers and Sox.
On Tuesday, Cole Irvin is scheduled to get the start for Oakland in a matchup with Hayward-native Tarik Skubal, who has a 8-11 record on the season.
Major League Baseball teams are totally unequipped to play doubleheaders in this new century. The doubleheader used to be a mainstay of the annual baseball schedule. My late father and I would deliberately plan to attend Cincinnati Reds games when doubleheaders were on the schedule. You bought one ticket and got to watch two games.
Then a few years ago, some bean counter in a Major League team’s front office figured out that his/her team was losing money by allowing fans to see two games for the price of one, and the traditional doubleheader died a sudden death. The era of the day-night doubleheader was born in order to squeeze every dime out the fans that can be had by every team in both leagues.
On Saturday, the A’s and Texas Rangers played a day-night doubleheader. The teams were rained out on April 13 and had a game to make up, so Saturday became the day the teams would play two games. It was the first doubleheader to be played in Arlington, Texas since September 30, 2012.
If you are the A’s, you hope for a sweep, will settle for a split and fear a being swept. Unfortunately for the Athletics, their worst fears came true on Saturday.
LHP Joe Palumbo made his Major League debut in the first game of the doubleheader. The A’s sent RHP Paul Blackburn to the hill for his first start of the 2019 season.
The Rangers jumped on Blackburn in the bottom of the first scoring three runs and taking a lead they would never give up. Texas put two more runs up on the board in the third inning to take a 5-0 lead over the A’s.
Oakland mounted a comeback in the fourth inning when Matt Olson hit his eighth home run of the season with Khris Davis on base. Later, Josh Phegley hit a double to drive in Chad Pinder and Ramon Laureano. The score was 5-4 with Texas leading as the game went the bottom of the fourth.
Texas put up another run on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning when Elvis Andrus hit his 12th double of the year driving Shin-Soo Chin home to score to give the Rangers a 6-4 lead.
The Rangers added four more runs in the home half of the fifth inning. The big blow came when Tim Federowicz hit a three-run home run that made the score 10-4 in favor of Texas.
Oakland would score one more time when Josh Phegley hit his eighth home run of the season over the left field wall. The score at that point was Texas 10, Oakland 5 which would ultimately be the final score.
Jeffery Springs (4-1) who came on in the fifth inning to relieve Palumbo was credited with the win. He pitched 3.0-innings giving up one run (earned) off two hits. Blackburn (0-1) took the loss for Oakland.
If you hung around for game two, you are a true fan. The twin bill took over 10 hours to complete because the stadium had to be emptied before the ticket holders for game two were allowed to reenter. They did have a nice crowd of 39,514 on hand as the Rangers retired Adrian Beltre’s number 29 before the game began.
The A’s drew first blood in the game when Mark Canha hit his 10th homer of the season off Adrian Sampson into left-center field in the top of the fourth inning. It would be the only run the A’s would score in the contest.
Texas put their first runs in the scorebook in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jeff Mathis hit a single to left that sent Danny Santana home and Ronald Guzman to second. Delino DeShields then hit a sacrifice fly to right field that allowed Ronald Guzman to score. After five complete innings, Texas held a 2-1 lead.
The Rangers would score again in the bottom of the sixth inning. Danny Santana hit his second triple of the year driving Rougned Odor home to score the third and final run of the game for Texas. That was all the scoring the Rangers would need as they would win the game 3-1.
Adrian Sampson (5-3) was the winning pitcher as he won his first complete game in his major league career. Sampson gave up one run (earned) off four hits. He struck out seven while issuing only one walk.
Chris Bassitt (3-2) was hung with the loss. Bassitt gave up three runs (all earned) on five hits. He struck out five Rangers and walked two.
The four-game series wraps up on Sunday at 12:05 PM PDT. The A’s will send Frankie Montas (7-2, 2.83) to the mound to stop the two-game losing streak. The Rangers will counter with Drew Smyly (1-4, 7.93). On paper, it would the advantage would go to the A’s.
The Oakland Athletics have feasted on the American League Central Division. One of the reasons the A’s record improved so dramatically in late June and early July was their performance versus the AL Central teams.
On Friday night, it looked like that feast would continue as the A’s jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on home runs by Dustin Fowler in the first inning and Matt Olson in the second inning. Oakland (48-40) appeared ready to make it a short game for Indians starter Carlos Carrasco.
Cleveland (49-37) had a completely different idea about the game. They put a run up on the board in the bottom of the second which started them on a march to victory. The Indians added three more runs to their total in the home half of the third inning to take a 4-2 lead, and they would never relinquish that lead.
The Indians would score six additional runs while the A’s would add two runs to their total. Cleveland won game one 10-4.
This game was about hitting
The Indians scored their 10 runs on just 10 hits — that’s efficiency.
Cleveland recorded 10 hits and struck out just four times. That is not the norm in the days of teams recording more strikeouts than hits.
They scored those 10 runs and had only three batters walk.
Cleveland went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left just two runners on base.
The Indians scored their 10 runs without hitting a home run. Their key weapon was the two-base hit. They hit three doubles in the game
Lindor, Brantley, Ramirez, and Encarnacion all had two-hit games. Ramirez and Encarnacion recorded three RBI each.
The A’s scored their four runs off 11 hits. Only one Oakland batter walked.
The A’s hitters also struck out 11 times for a one hit to one strikeout ratio — not unusual this season but not what any manager wants to see from his team.
Mark Canha led the Oakland hitting attack going 3-for-4 with an RBI (33). One of his hits was his 14th double of the season.
Fowler, Olson, and Semien all had two-hit nights. Fowler also picked up two RBIs.
Oakland went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base.
It was a night of many pitchers
Carlos Carrasco (9-5) made the start for Cleveland and picked up the win. He worked 5.1-innings giving up three runs (all earned) on seven hits. Carrasco struck out seven A’s and walked none. He did allow two home runs.
Cleveland used five relief pitchers. Four of them pitched less than an inning.
Dan Otero — who pitched for the A’s for three seasons — pitched the final two innings of the game for the Indians.
No save was awarded.
Paul Blackburn started the game for the A’s and worked 4.0 innings. He gave up six runs (five earned) on seven hits. Blackburn struck three and walked one. He was charged with the loss and his record falls to 2-3.
Yusmeiro Petit worked 2.0 innings of no-hit baseball. He walked one and struck out one.
Emilio Pagan really struggled as he pitched 0.2 innings allowing four runs (all earned) on just three hits.
Santiago Casilla came in to close out the seventh inning for Pagan.
Chris Hatcher worked a perfect eighth inning for Oakland against the Indians.
The A’s and Indians will play game two of the three-game series on Saturday at 1:10 pm PDT. The “ageless one” Edwin Jackson (1-0, 2.13) will start for Oakland and the very tough Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.64) will take the hill for the Indians.
Chicks, fans and home run hitters dig the long ball. The baseball gods–and the won-loss column–prefer a more well-rounded approach to the grand old game.
Just ask the Swinging A’s.
On the day the A’s established a modern-day, Major League record by hitting at least one home run in 25 consecutive road contests, they found little to celebrate as the White Sox took it to them, 10-3, at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Much of blame for the lopsided loss fell at the feet of Paul Blackburn, who cruised through four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Blackburn allowed six hits and five runs in that frame, then saw his second pitch of the sixth inning exit the ballpark at 115 mph off the bat of Daniel Palka. Needless to say his hanging change up to Palka offered little mystery.
“I was executing my pitches well,” Blackburn said. “Except to six batters in the fifth and one leading off the sixth.”
“He was good for a while this time and had one real tough inning,” manager Bob Melvin said of Blackburn. “He’s still trying to find his way a little bit consistently.”
Blackburn fell to 1-2 with an unsightly ERA of 8.83 in four starts. In Oakland, where many are given the opportunity to succeed, but few are given a lengthy rope to fail, Blackburn would normally be forced to figure out his issues at AAA Nashville. But the A’s are strapped, and Blackburn will probably make his next scheduled start on Friday at the Coliseum against the first-place Indians.
In terms of the current standings, splitting a four-game series against a team that’s 25 games below .500 does little for the A’s postseason outlook. But as a team still three games above the break-even point, they have a profile, it’s just not very compelling at this point. The A’s are 11 games back of the Astros in the AL West, and 6 1/2 games behind the Mariners, the second wild card at this juncture. Winning on Sunday would have given them an additional distinction: holding the AL’s sixth-best record to themselves when the top-five have–at least for now–run away from the pack.
And the home runs? Yeah, they’re helpful, and they give the youthful A’s an identity, but in terms of wins and losses, maybe not so much. The A’s won 14 of the 25 games in their record stretch. Good, but not great.
“It certainly would have been a little better if we won the game,” Melvin said when asked about the home run record.
The A’s start a four-game set in Detroit on Monday.
Cleveland sent veteran All-Star Corey Kluber to the hill to face the Athletics rookie Paul Blackburn who was just making the third start of his major league career on Saturday night. The game really belonged to the hurlers for much of the early stages. Pitching mistakes highlighted the runs that were scored early.
Kluber (7-3, 2.86) certainly would like to have the 2-1 offering back that Matt Chapman hit over the left-center field wall in the bottom of the third inning for the first home run of his MLB career. Kluber had not allowed a hit until the home run which put the A’s up 1-0.
The young Mr. Blackburn (1-0, 1.83) put himself and the A’s into jeopardy in the top of the fourth by giving up a leadoff walk to Michael Brantley. Edwin Encarnacion then followed up by taking the 0-1 pitch from Blackburn down the left field line for a two -run home run (19). Blackburn fought his way through the inning without allowing any additional runs but the Indians held a 2-1 lead.
With two out and the bases empty in the home-half of the fifth, Chapman hit a solid double to right off Kluber. Rajai Davis followed with an RBi-single to right and the A’s had tied the game at 2-2.
In the top of the sixth, Blackburn put himself back on the griddle when he issued a leadoff walk to Encarnacion. Jose Ramirez singled to right and Encarnacion advanced to third. Carlos Santana grounded to the right side of the infield but because the shift was on the only play was to first base. Encarnacion scored easily from third to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead.
A trio of A’s relievers finished the game for Oakland giving no runs on no hits and did not allow a Cleveland baserunner.
Kluber came out and started the eighth inning for the Indians. He was still looking strong as he had struck out 12 A’s batters. The first Oakland hitter was Matt Chapman who hit Kluber’s first pitch over the center field wall for his second home run of the night. That tied the game at 3-3 and chased Kluber from the contest.
The Indians were unable to score in the top of the ninth so the game remained tied as the A’s came to bat.
Cleveland reliever Andrew Miller walked Oakland’s leadoff man Yonder Alonso. Terry Francona pulled Miller and inserted Bryan Shaw into the game. The first batter to face Shaw was Khris Davis. Davis worked the count to 3-2 and then Davis hit the next pitch over the right-center field wall for a two-run walkoff home run giving the A’s a 5-3 win over the Indians.
The win guarantees that Oakland (41-50) will the series which concludes on Sunday.
The win goes to Ryan Madson (2-4, 2.06). The Indians reliever Andrew Miller (3-3, 1.60) takes the loss.
Take a bow
Come back out for an encore Mr. Chapman. The rookie third baseman was a perfect 3-for-3 in the game with all three hits coming off Corey Kluber. Chapman not only hit his first major league home run but he also had the first multi-home run game of his career. Do not forget his other hit was a double that turned into a run when Rajai Davis hit a single that drove him home. So, Chapman also posted three runs and two RBi on Saturday night.
Indians pitcher Corey Kluber does deserve honorable mention even though he did not figure into the decision. He struck out 12 hitters in his 7.1 innings of work while walking none. The reason Kluber also gets kudos is he threw 106 pitches (72 strikes). 100-plus pitches: “that’s old school” and it deserves an nod.
In the batter’s box
Khris Davis has to be brought out for a standing ovation for hitting his second walk-off home run of the season (the fourth of his career). It was his 25th round-tripper of the year to go with 62 RBi.
The Indians Edwin Encarnacion also deserves a nod for 2-for-3 game that included his 19th home run and two RBi.
On the hill
Hats off to the A’s trio of relievers who worked the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Liam Hendriks, Daniel Coulombe and Ryan Madson combined to pitch a perfect final three innings to give the Athletics a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
Up next for the Athletics
The Indians and Athletics wrap up this three-game series on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. at the Coliseum on Rickey Henderson Field.
Indians – RHP Trevor Bauer (7-7, 5.24) will be the starter for Cleveland. It will be his 18th start of the season and his first start in nine days. Bauer lost his last start 6-2 to the San Diego on July 5 when he allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 5.0 innings.
Athletics – Oakland will counter with LHP Sean Manaea (7-5, 3.76). He lost his last start on July 7 in Seattle giving up three runs (earned) on eight hits in 7.0 innings on the mound. Manaea walked one and struck out three Mariners. He beat the Indians back on May 31 in Cleveland as he struck out nine Indians in seven innings. The A’s won that game 3-1.
For you long-range planners
Sonny Gray is scheduled to start the final game of the Tampa Bay series on Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. If you are a Gray fan, I’m just saying …
The Oakland Athletics entered the game with the Atlanta Braves on Saturday in search of their first win in three games. They were also looking to rebound after just avoiding being no-hit on Friday night.
The Athletics had to turn to a rookie pitcher making his first start in the major leagues to face the Braves in the second game of the series. RHP Paul Blackburn was called up from Triple-A Nashville to make the spot start because Jharel Cotton is still battling a blister on his thumb. Blackburn had to face-off with cagey knuckleball throwing veteran R.A. Dickey.
The Braves put the first run on the board when Tyler Flowers scored from second base off Danny Santana’s double to left-center in the top of the second inning. Flowers had advanced into scoring position when SS Franklin Barreto’s throw sailed over the glove of Yonder Alonso into foul territory. Barreto was charged with an error. (Braves 1, A’s 0)
The A’s scored their first run in the bottom of the fourth when Ryon Healy hit a one-out single up the middle driving in Khris Davis from second base. Oakland had additional chances to score in the inning but did not take advantage of those opportunities. The inning ended on a bases loaded double-play. (Braves 1, A’s 1)
The Braves scored again in the seventh inning. Sean Doolittle replaced A’s starter Paul Blackburn on the mound. With one out, Danny Santana singled to left. He then proceeded to steal second base. Then in a very aggressive move, Santana moved up to third by stealing the base. Dansby Swanson hit a double and Santana scored easily. (Braves 2, A’s 1)
Nick Markakis led off the eighth inning for the Braves by hitting a double to right field off Madson. Markakis moved to third when Matt Kemp grounded out. He scored when Matt Adams hit a sacrifice fly to left field. (Braves 3, A’s 1)
The Athletics roared back in the eighth inning. With one out, Jed Lowrie walked. That brought DH Khris Davis to the plate to face Braves reliever Arodys Vizcaino who was brought in to pitch the eighth inning. Davis hit the 1-2 pitch from Vizcaino over the left-center field wall for a two-run home run to tie the game at 3-3. It was the 22nd home run of the season for Davis. (Braves 3, A’s 3).
In the ninth inning with Santiago Casilla on the mound, the Braves Danny Santana reached first base on a fielding error charged to Franklin Barreto. Santana then was able to successfully steal second. Dansby Swanson hit a double to left field that drove Santana home with what would prove to be the game winning run. (Braves 4, A’s 3).
Paul Blackburn pitched 6.0-innings in his first major league start giving up just one run (unearned) on three hits. He struck out three batters and walked one.
Ryon Healy went 3-for-3 on the day plus a walk and a RBI (51). It was his 23rd multi-hit game of the season.
Khris Davis had a 1-for-3 game that included a two-run home run (22) and two RBI (56).
Rookie Dansby Swanson had a 2-for-4 day at the plate. He hit two doubles and recorded two RBI (35).
Danny Santana also went 2-for-4 against the A’s plus he scored two runs and had one RBI.
Nick Markakis went just 1-for-4 but that one hit was a double that ultimately turned into a run.
Closer Jim Johnson – who struggled when was a Oakland Athletic – picked up his 18th save of the season. He worked a perfect ninth inning striking out two Athletics.
Player who had the toughest game of the day
Oakland rookie infielder Franklin Barreto really struggled on Saturday. He started at shortstop for the A’s and committed two errors which resulted in two Atlanta runs.
Most baseball experts see Barreto as a second baseman but he has seen a great deal of time at shortstop in the minor leagues. Fans cannot forget that Barreto is a rookie.
Oakland Manger Bob Melvin’s comments on the loss to Atlanta
Blackburn was called up from Triple-A Nashville to make a spot start for Jharel Cotton who is dealing with a blister on his thumb.
He’s a Bay Area product who was born in Antioch
Blackburn attended Heritage High School in Brentwood
The pitcher was a 1st round draft choice (#56 overall) of the Cubs in 2012
Was traded by the Cubs to the Seattle Mariners on July 20, 2016 as a part of a four-player deal
Blackburn was dealt to the Athletics in November 2016 in the trade that sent infielder Danny Valencia to Seattle
Atlanta plans to send RHP Julio Teheran to the mound on Sunday to face the A’s. Teheran is 6-6 in 2012 with 5.30 ERA in 16 starts. He has given up 59 runs (53 earned) off 96 hits. Teheran has struck out 62 batters and walked 34.
Teheran has really struggled in the Braves new Sun Trust Park. Only one of his six victories has come at home in Atlanta. He is a much tougher pitcher on the road.
Teheran has faced the A’s just once in career back in 2014. He led the Braves to a 4-3 win over Oakland.
Oakland will counter by sending LHP Sean Manaea to the hill on Sunday. Manaea is 7-4 with a 3.87 ERA. His seven wins has him tied for ninth best in the American League. Left-handed hitters are batting just .127 off Manaea while right-handers are hitting him at .243 clip. The mark against lefties is the second lowest in the major leagues with 50 or more innings.
Manaea won his last start over the Astros in Houston on Monday. He worked 5.2-innings giving up one-run (earned) on nine-hits while walking three and striking three. Manaea has never faced Atlanta.
Matt Chapman visits Stockton
Matt Chapman’s rehab process from his bout with cellulitis in the left knee is running ahead of schedule which is great news for the Athletics. Chapman will be the Designated Hitter for the Ports in Stockton on Saturday night. He will then take a start at third base on Sunday for the Ports.
The A’s medical staff will evaluate Chapman’s knee after his weekend in Stockton in order to determine what the next step will be for the rookie. Chapman is eligible to come off the disabled list now.