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Game #10: Oakland A’s drop finale against Royals, but win series

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Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s couldn’t quite wrap up a road sweep against the Royals, dropping the finale 3-1 in Kansas City. Two outta three ain’t bad, though!

Jesse Hahn was solid in his return to the rotation, with a technical quality start (6 ip, 3 runs), and the bullpen held serve after he departed. However, the lineup was shut down by old nemesis Jason Vargas.

The soft-tossing lefty pitched into the 8th and allowed only five baserunners, and the A’s only avoided a shutout when Rajai Davis homered in the 9th off Kelvin Herrera. They eventually brought the tying run to the plate, but there was no comeback magic to be had on this night.

Jesse Hahn

The evening began ominously for Hahn, as four of his first five batters singled. That staked the Royals to a 2-0 lead that they never relinquished, which means that the eventual winning run scored in the bottom of the 1st.

Hahn settled down after his rough opening frame, though, and allowed just two hits over the next five innings. The Royals managed to manufacture another run in the 3rd (infield single, walk, stole 3rd, scored on sac fly), but otherwise Hahn had a reasonably quality outing — certainly plenty good enough for a fifth starter.

One particularly encouraging sign was his seven strikeouts, a total he hasn’t reached since June of 2014 as a member of the Padres. During his poor 2016 campaign his K-rate dipped quite a bit, and it didn’t help that he couldn’t get batters to chase his stuff or swing and miss. That wasn’t a problem on Thursday, as six of his strikeouts came on whiffs using all three of his main offerings (sinker, change, curve). Here’s one of each (full highlight video):

That’s an 84 mph change, a 74 mph curve, and a 94 mph sinker (which can get up to 95-96), all fooling hitters for whiffs, and he also has a slider that isn’t pictured there. That arsenal should give him plenty of weapons, including something to get both righties and lefties, but the key is whether he can continue to adequately command each pitch like he did tonight.

His two appearances this year:

Hahn, 4/7: 6 ip, 2 runs, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 7 hits, 0 HR
Hahn, 4/13: 6 ip, 3 runs, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 6 hits 0 HR

Who knows how long Hahn will remain in the rotation, with Sonny Gray due back later this month, but if he keeps putting up games like that in the meantime then the A’s will have a tough decision to make somewhere on the roster. His strong effort wasn’t enough to win on this night, but it was one step closer to putting the right-hander back on the map.

Lineup

Let’s not talk about it. They only managed six hits, including a pair by Jed Lowrie. Only once did they put multiple runners on, and they never even reached third base until the final inning. Despite all that they somehow brought the tying run to the plate in the 9th, but it was just a teAse.

Anyway, just watch Rajai Davis’ homer off Kelvin Herrera and call it a night. Things will surely look up tomorrow when they go for a rebound against ... 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel? Aw hamburgers.

Two more errors

The A’s committed two more defensive errors, and they’re now tied for the MLB lead at 11 with Arizona. The culprits this time were Hahn (who flubbed a feed from Ryon Healy while running to cover first base), and Mark Canha (who simply clanked a liner hit directly at his glove in RF).

This stuff has gotta stop. It’s not just one guy, either; 10 different players have notched errors, with Canha the only repeat offender.

Next game

The A’s return home on Friday as a .500 ballclub, and I don’t think any of us will complain about that. Next game is against Keuchel and the Astros, at 7:05 p.m., with Kendall Graveman starting for the A’s.