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Game #80: A’s Comeback Again, Defeat Tigers 9-7

More homers. More late-inning heroics.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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

The game began rather poorly. Four of the first five Tiger hitters reached. By the time Frankie Montas got three outs, the Tigers had already scored four runs. But if a team is to earn a comeback win, it first must fall behind. You’d be forgiven, however, if after three innings, and a by-then 6-0 deficit, your mindset changed from “series sweep” to “what position player could pitch the late innings?”

Frankie Montas

There was nearly a two-run gap between Frankie Montas’ ERA and xFIP entering tonight’s game, suggesting some combination of small sample size noise and luck. But a deeper dive into the numbers revealed more warning signs - an 80% strand rate simply isn’t sustainable when you’re striking out fewer than six batters per inning. Montas was due for a correction, and we saw something like that tonight.

Frankie did gut through three innings, but it took him 74 pitches to do so. His six earned runs came on eight hits and three walks and he worked just a single strikeout. Montas’ ERA jumped more than a run, from 2.41 at 4:10 PM to 3.68 post-game. If solace is to be found in Frankie’s effort, he limited the long ball. While he gave up three extra-base hits, none left the park. His numbers have normalized some, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this space as he moves through the season.

But three paragraphs is more than enough negativity to devote to tonight’s game. What a victory!

The Comeback

The comeback began in the fourth when Jed Lowrie singled to lead-off the inning. The next two hitters made outs, but the A’s caught a break on a play you just don’t see that often at the major-league level. Stephen Piscotty hit a one-hopper to the Tigers’ shortstop. Despite the ball being drilled, Niko Goodrum handled it well and threw to first in time to get Piscotty.

Except John Hicks dropped the ball.

It wasn’t a perfect throw; it was a little low, but it was at least a foot off the ground and should have been handled routinely. The A’s seized the moment - doubles from Jonathan Lucroy and Mark Canha halved the six-run deficit.

The Tigers would get their final run of the night in the bottom of the fourth, extending their lead to 7-3. The A’s, however, wouldn’t go quietly into the night and again roared back in the fifth.

Three pitches later, Jed Lowrie would do the same. The A’s remained behind a run for just an inning. In the seventh, a series of walks and a single was followed by a Matt Olson groundout, and the teams were again level. After Ryan Buchter tight-roped his way out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth, Jed Lowrie did Jed Lowrie things. As Earnest Hemingway always said:

“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for Jed Lowrie.”

Tonight’s Heroes

Lowrie finished the day 4-4 with the game-winning RBI, a homer, and a walk. He was the game’s clear hero, but the bullpen’s effort can’t be lost in today’s victory. Chris Hatcher and Emilio Pagan each pitched two innings. Hatcher gave up a run, but that was the only blemish on the bullpen’s line score. Ryan Buchter pitched the eighth and earned the win, and Blake Treinen struck out one en route to a clean ninth and his 19th save of the season.

If you’re keeping track, that’s eight victories in the last ten games, and the A’s are four games above .500 for the first time this season. As Fangraphs noted today, the AL Central is historically bad. Let’s keep our tour of the league’s worst division rolling on tomorrow!