Game #92: Liriano, Pirates Conquer Oakland

Justin K. Aller

It was a "tip your cap" kind of night in Pittsburgh.

Francisco Liriano was on tonight. It's that simple. After waiting through a rain delay of nearly three hours, the A's offense couldn't get anything going at all against the Pirates' southpaw. Meanwhile, Tommy Milone struggled, and the Bucs came away with a 5-0 win.

Milone labored early, lasting through only 2.2 innings while giving up 7 hits, 3 earned runs, and 2 walks. He's certainly been unpredictable this year; after putting together a gem against the Royals over the weekend, he just didn't have it today. He won't pitch again until after the All Star Break, so he'll have the opportunity to get a nice amount of rest and potentially figure some stuff out before his next start.

Pat Neshek wasn't much better in relief. In his one inning of work, he gave up 3 hits and 2 earned runs. The last of those scored with Jerry Blevins pitching (it was Neshek's base runner, so the run is still charged to him), and gave the Bucs a 5-0 lead that ended up being all they'd need. As a matter of fact, that wrapped up the scoring for the evening, making for a pretty slow final five innings.

The lone offensive bright spot for the A's was Coco Crisp, who went 3-4. Obviously, he failed to score, but that might be his own fault. He made a pretty painful baserunning blunder in the first inning when, with runners on first and second, Yoenis Cespedes cued a dribbler up the first base line that Liriano picked up, tagging out Cespedes. But somehow Crisp thought he'd be able to score on the play, taking a huge turn around third base and getting tagged out diving back towards the bag. It ended up being inconsequential, but Coco's baserunning woes have been a fairly significant issue over the past few months, and hopefully he finds a way to make more prudent decisions once he gets on base, which he's doing very well.

Sonny Gray's MLB debut was by far the highlight of the night for the A's. He came on to work two scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, in which he struck out three batters — one of whom was Andrew McCutchen — and did a fantastic job locating his fastball, which touched 96mph on the gun. Melvin could've left him in after the sixth, but I'd imagine he wants Gray to be available for Friday night against Boston and the rest of the games in that upcoming weekend series.

Grant Green is still hitless, but he's faced two phenomenal starters in Liriano and Jeff Locke. I think he'll be fine, despite a few at-bats during this series in which his approach was iffy at best.

The A's are off tomorrow before they return to the Coliseum for a Friday evening tilt with the Red Sox, who currently sport the American League's best record. Their record falls to 54-38, but Oakland is still first place in the AL West thanks to the Baltimore Orioles handling Texas earlier in the evening by a score of 6-1.

The A's have still won five consecutive series, three of which were against three of the National League's best teams, so don't sweat this one too much. Oakland is also still 11-1 all time against Pittsburgh in Interleague Play, and Stuart Scott referred to the A's organization, and not Robert Nutting, as the Pirates' owners. ESPN mentioning the A's should be enough good news for Oakland fans for one night. Back to Oakland and on to Boston! This weekend should give us a phenomenal, final pre-All Star Break series.

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