Securing a 4 game sweep over a team fighting for its playoff life is not easy. The A's found out today that, despite some surprise pitching in the first 3 games of the series, the magic would not carry over for a 4 game sweep. The A's batters fought hard to come back from deficits of 7-0 and 9-2, but a bases loaded, two out situation in the 9th ended with a Danny Valencia ground out, and the winning streak came to a close.
In the first 3 games of the series, Kendall Graveman, Zach Neal, Ross Detwiler and a collection of the A's best bullpen arms limited the potent Orioles lineup to just 3 total runs. Today, with reliever Andrew Triggs making his 2nd big league start, that number would be tripled in just one contest.
Triggs, the 8th A's starter in 8 games, started off strong, putting up 3 clean innings with some help from some nifty defense. Ryon Healy made the defensive play of the game with a 720 play that would make Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and the U.S. Olympic gold medal winning team proud, well... maybe not, but it would sure make them giggle. Check out the nifty spins for yourself:
The top Orioles starter Chris Tillman matched Triggs frame for frame through 3 as the game looked like it may be another pitching/defense battle, following suit of the prior 3 games. The top of the 4th is when the story took a twist, as Manny Machado, Chris (with a C) Davis and Mark Trumbo all singled, followed by a Pedro Alvarez two run double that popped the score to 3-0. The birds' bats had officially come back alive. The 4th would be the final frame for Triggs, he took the loss and ended with a line of 4 IP, 3 runs (all earned) on 5 hits with 0 walks and 4 K's. Overall, the first three innings were pristine, it is hard to expect a reliever to go much more than that, especially against a good lineup, and Triggs could not.
The A's continued to be shut down by Tillman in the 4th and then Daniel Coulombe came in to pitch in the top of the 5th. Coulombe gave up a single to Adam Jones, where Jones took 2nd on a Coco Crisp error. With two outs the big bat Machado was intentionally walked and then Coulombe lost another at bat, walking Davis and loading the bases for the slugger Trumbo. This was not good. Trumbo battled Coulombe and then deposited one to center field for the grand salami and the troubling 7-0 lead. This proved to be the game winning hit.
Twinkle Toes Healy would not stop with a nice defensive play, as the rookie slugged a two run homer in the bottom of the 5th to close it to 7-2. It was Healy's 4th big league HR on the year.
Journeyman Chris Smith replaced Coulombe in the top of the 6th and gave the team 3 middle relief innings. He yielded 2 runs in the top of the 7th on a Jones HR and an Alvarez RBI hit. He left with the A's down 9-2 and things looking bleak.
The A's could have packed it in down 9-2 with two frames left vs. a very good bullpen. However, the slumping bats decided to come alive and give us something to sit up and look at in both the 8th and 9th.
In the bottom of the 8th, Max Muncy led off by clubbing his 2nd HR on the year, making it 9-3. The eyeballs then took over as Crisp, Vogt and Valencia all walked. Unfortunately, there was a Marcus Semien GIDP in there that erased one and made it two outs. With two on and two out, Yonder Alonso slugged a bases clearing double to close the score to 9-5 and then Billy Butler knocked his 2nd hit of the game to bring in Alonso and close the gap to 9-6. Jake Smolinski would fly out to end the threat.
Marc "It Takes a Spelling Bee Champ to Spell" Rzepczynski toed the rubber in the top of the 9th and K'd a pair of O's after a Machado double to hold the line at a save situation.
Enter Orioles uber-closer Zach Britton to close the door in the 9th. The A's did not let him off easy. After Healy grounded out, Brett Eibner drew a pinch hit walk and, after a Crisp flyout, Marcus Semien and Khris Davis loaded the bases with two base hits. The Davis hit was not without its drama as the rookie Eibner was called out rounding third on the infield hit. Eibner was bailed out by the suits in New York as the play was over turned and Valencia got his shot at glory. It would not be, however, as Valencia grounded out to close down the rally, the game, and the series.
The A's did take the series with the 3 wins prior to today. And the bats showing some life against good pitching was a welcome sight after the pitching and D has been carrying a meek lineup. It was positive to see some power from youngsters Healy and Muncy. And for a team who has struggled to get on base, the 4 walks were a good sight.
The A's next face the Mariners for a 3 game set in Oakland to close out the home stand. Friday night's game features rookie LHP Sean Manaea, who at this point feels like a rotation stalwart even though he has never made a big league opening day roster. Kendall Graveman will follow on Saturday as these two look to solidify their upper-middle rotation status for 2017.
Notes on the farm for this evening include starts for Heath Fillmyer for AA Midland, recent top prospect acquisition Grant Holmes for A+ Stockton and prospect Dakota Chalmers for short season Vermont. These are some names to keep an eye on as the A's look to make future pitching staffs less topsy turvy than the 2016 version.
Until next time AN, best wishes and Go A's!