It was a weird day at the hot corner. Ehire Adrianza made a great defensive play charging on a slow chopper, and made two incredible sliding stops that prevented doubles and saved runs in key situations, while a Matt Chapman error derailed an already tenuous start from Trevor Cahill and allowed the Twins to take a stranglehold on today’s game. Chapman also grounded into two double plays and struck out. As such, the A’s weren’t able to salvage the final home game of the regular season, clinch a playoff spot in front of the home fans, or gain ground on a losing Yankees’ club, losing by a score of 5-1.
There have been lots of small sample debates surroundings Trevor Cahill’s season. Before he was signed, there was the issue of his first half of 2017 versus his second half, and which was more likely to be representative of his 2018 season. Then this season there has been the question surrounding Cahill’s home versus road splits, and which is more indicative of the kind of pitcher he is. A third small sample issue for Cahill has been his first inning performance versus his middle innings performance, as the veteran righty has often given up a run or two, or fought with his control, in the opening frame.
Whether or not it can be proven that Cahill’s splits are random noise or evidence of greater issues can certainly be debated, but anecdotally Cahill struggled with his command and gave up two runs in the first inning in today’s start. He fell behind Joe Mauer before giving up a leadoff single, and gave up a two run home run to Jake Cave on a middle-middle sinker.
Apart from that, however, Cahill still missed a lot of bats and in a moment’s time Cahill was through three innings with four strikeouts and under forty pitches thrown, with just the two runs on the board. With Kyle Gibson making the start for the Twins, the A’s were presumably going to make a lot of contact and have several opportunities to score, despite the success he has had this year.
Gibson thrives when he is able to induce soft contact, as he is no strikeout ace, and after a shaky first couple of innings he began to thrive. A rally in the first was snuffed out when a double play sucked the air out of the offense, but the team had plenty of ducks on the pond and were applying pressure early. After Matt Olson fell behind 0-2 to lead off the second inning, he fought hard to work the count back full, fouling off some tough pitches, before lofting a hanging slider on the ninth pitch of the AB up and over the tall wall in right center and into the seats.
The blast was Olson’s 28th of the season. The A’s threatened for more in the second after Ramon Laureano followed the solo shot with a soft, dying quail of a double in right field, but like in the first, the team came up empty.
The failed rallies wound up costly, as the Twins tacked onto their lead after an errant throw from Matt Chapman turned what could have been an inning ending double play into a first-and-third with one out situation, and the Twins did what good teams do and made the A’s pay for their mistake. Max Kepler ripped a single to left, Ehire Adrianza hit his fourth double of the series, and Cahill was pulled in favor of Shawn Kelley with runners on second and third, one out, and a 4-1 deficit. A sacrifice fly scored another, and Cahill’s line for the day officially ended at 3.1 innings pitched, five hits, five strikeouts, five runs, three earned runs, no walks and one home run allowed.
The bullpen, through the combination of Kelley, Yusmeiro Petit, Emilio Pagan, Liam Hendriks (for two innings), and J.B. Wendelken, did their part to keep the Twins’ run total in place. The relievers pitched a combined 5.2 innings, striking out five batters, and allowed no runs and four hits. Pagan, in particular, looked very strong in his inning long appearance, though his second half as a whole may have played Pagan off of the playoff roster, with Hendriks likely to wrestle away his spot. Unfortunately, the A’s offense was entirely shut down by Gibson, so the bullpen heroics went for naught.
Kyle Gibson lasted all the way into the eighth inning before finally getting removed due to his high pitch count. He only struck out three A’s all day long, but he didn’t need a strong strikeout pitch with the impeccable defense the Twins had on the field behind him, today. As mentioned above, Adrianza is directly responsible for saving at least three runs on defense today with his wizardry at third base, and in the later innings rallies were killed before they could even start thanks to the Twins’ up-the-middle defense. The A’s notched eight hits total, but went 0-7 with RISP today and went 0-21 with RISP for the weekend. Tough to score runs like that.
In the ninth, going up against Trevor May, Jed Lowrie worked himself a pinch hit walk, but that was it. Nick Martini struck out to end the game, the final score 5-1.
Things weren’t all bad for the A’s. Matt Olson beat the shift three times today after spending most of the first five games against the Twins getting flummoxed by the four-outfielder shift. The bullpen, as mentioned previously, was nearly perfect today. The A’s and their fans can still enjoy a fun and relaxing week of baseball that will conclude with the team making their final preparations for the AL Wild Card game. If the A’s win out, they can still reach exactly one hundred wins.
Until tomorrow, A’s fans.