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Game #71: A’s snap losing streak, beat Angels 6-4

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Stephen Piscotty came through with the go-ahead hit in the 6th.

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s snapped their four-game losing streak on Saturday, and along the way they finally notched a victory against a division rival. The green and gold showed up on both sides of the ball and beat the Angels 6-4.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

A’s starter Sean Manaea was perfect through four innings, but the Angels got to him in the 5th. Two solid singles set the scene, and then Chris Young saw a high, outside pitch to his liking and blasted it to left for a three-run homer. Manaea still wound up with a quality start but it wasn’t the gem he’d initially been putting together, and it must be noted that the Angels lineup is currently ravaged by injuries (missing Upton, Cozart, Calhoun, Ohtani).

At the end of five frames this looked like a classic A’s heartbreaker — shut down by a nondescript opposing starter, while giving up the big hit to the Curse of the Former Athletics. The pitcher in this case was soft-tossing lefty John Lamb, making his first start of the year and first MLB appearance since 2016. Through those first five innings he allowed just a solo homer to Chad Pinder, plus a harmless single and walk.

Fortunately, the A’s broke from the mundane script in the 6th. Lamb was greeted with another dinger to lead things off, this time by Marcus Semien to cut the lead to 3-2, and that was enough to knock him out in favor of the bullpen.

The first reliever up was Noe Ramirez, and he decidedly did not get the job done. Assigning wins and losses to individual pitchers is mostly a dumb stat, but in this case he truly earned the loss about as much as humanly possible. Ramirez’s day, in bulleted list form:

  • HBP
  • Flyout
  • Walk
  • HBP
  • Strikeout
  • Walk (RBI)
  • Single (2 RBI)
  • Strikeout

Ramirez’s very first pitch plugged Pinder right in the tuchis, then he walked Khris Davis on five pitches, and then Matt Olson got clipped in the foot on the first pitch he saw. Ramirez did manage to record a couple outs along the way, but he loaded the bases all by himself with no help from the A’s hitters. Next up was Jonathan Lucroy, who watched three balls sail far outside, then took a strike, and then let one more outside pitch go by to draw an RBI walk and tie the game. The first three balls were so far out that they didn’t require much patience from the batter, but Lucroy did a good job forcing a clearly wild pitcher to find the zone and he earned Ball 4 as a reward.

With the score knotted and the bases still packed, Stephen Piscotty got the chance to play hero. He lined his 1-1 pitch back up the middle for a solid single, scoring two more runs to give Oakland a 5-3 lead. The RF has been heating up all month, and his June numbers include a line of 14-for-44 with four walks and an .835 OPS (.318/.380/.455). He still has a long way to go to salvage his season stats (now up to 88 wRC+), but it’s a start.

Oakland tacked on another run in the 7th. With one out Pinder drove the ball to the wall and wound up on third base with a triple, and Jed Lowrie followed with a grounder up the middle to drive him in. That insurance run came in handy down the road.

The A’s turned to the stars of their bullpen to seal the victory, but it didn’t go perfectly smoothly. Yusmeiro Petit and Lou Trivino did their parts, retiring 6-of-7 batters between them. However, closer Blake Treinen ran into trouble in his first appearance in nearly a week.

Treinen walked Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on 10 total pitches to lead off, meaning he spent the rest of the afternoon with the tying run at the plate or worse. He retired the next two batters, but pinch-hitter Jose Miguel Hernandez kept things going by ripping an RBI single to right. That brought up A’s killer Luis Valbuena as the potential go-ahead run, and with the platoon advantage in hand too, but Treinen induced a groundout to end the rally and the game.

Oakland didn’t dominate on either side of the ball, but they also didn’t disappear in any facet. They took what the opponent gave them, especially in Ramirez’s wild 6th, and overall they did more than enough to earn the win. They also played strong defense throughout, with no errors and some more nice plays from Semien at short and Pinder in left. On the downside, Barreto still looks lost at the plate — he came up four times and struck out thrice, with an infield popout being his best result. Presumably he’ll get some more chances in the coming days while Matt Chapman is on the DL.

The A’s needed this win in a big way. The losing streak wasn’t that long, but it was discouraging after beginning the homestand with a series win and it was costly coming against AL West rivals. Another positive result on Sunday would bring them back up to .500 both on the homestand and the season. It’ll be Daniel Mengden vs. Andrew Heaney in the finale.