Spring Game #18: Rockies ride long ball to victory over A’s

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Today, the A’s saw great things from Marcus Semien, who went 3-for-3 with a triple, two runs scored, and a stolen base. However, Oakland’s offense was not able to execute on a few significant opportunities, leaving six runners on base and going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Oakland regulars Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson went a combined 1-for-9, while hot prospect Sean Murphy went 0-for-3 with one walk.

Meanwhile, Oakland was done in by the Colorado offense courtesy of the long ball. Starter Brett Anderson gave up a three-run blast to Ian Desmond, and non-starting-starter Chris Bassitt allowed two homers to second string Rockies Noel Cuevas and Elliot Soto. Each pitcher delivered three solid innings with only scattered hits, but ran out of gas during his fourth inning of work.

After giving up three hits and no runs in three innings, Anderson allowed a single by Daniel Murphy (no relation) and a walk by Trevor Story to bring up Desmond with one out and two on. On a 1-2 count, Anderson left a curve hanging in the middle of the plate, and two-time all star Desmond punished him with a three-run bomb to right center, sending Anderson to the showers. Anderson’s final line was three and a third innings pitched, five hits, three earned runs, one walk, and two strikeouts. Reliever Liam Hendriks came in with the bases empty and got the final two outs of the inning, despite issuing a walk to Mark Reynolds.

In the eighth inning, after three quality innings of his own, Bassitt surrendered a hard-hit double to Michael Saunders before replacement shortstop Cuevas drove him in on a homer to left and Soto hit a solo shot to center. Bassitt ended the day with four innings pitched and three runs on five hits, while striking out five and walking none.

Jon Gray also twirled a trio of terrific frames for the Rockies. Through the third inning, his stuff played especially well as he pounded the zone in the bottom corners with his mid-nineties heat, wipeout slider, and killer curve. His first mistake was a belt high meatball in the top of the second, which Semien turned into a sharp line drive up the middle.

In the fourth, the A’s finally got to Gray, starting with a looping liner to center from Profar. Getting a good read on Semien’s bloop to right, Profar then went first-to-third on the veteran’s second hit of the day. With Mark Canha up, Semien stole his way into scoring position to create a two-out opportunity for Oakland. Canha cashed in with a single to right on a 2-2 count, knocking in the first two runs of the game.

Left fielder Robbie Grossman followed with a single of his own and ended Gray’s day with six groundouts and four strikeouts on no walks. Gray was charged with five hits and two earned runs over three and two-thirds innings. 24-year-old Yency Almonte, a big right hander, closed out the inning by striking out Dustin Fowler, stranding Canha and Grossman at the corners.

Oakland’s only other run came in the sixth inning. Leading off, Semien was sitting fastball on the first pitch from reliever Jake McGee (BS, 1IP, 2H, 1ER, 0BB, 1K), and he got it. Just missing a homerun, Semien ended up with a triple off the left field wall. After a swinging strikeout by Canha, Grossman exhibited some good situational hitting with a deep fly to David Dahl, good for one RBI to tie the game at 3 on the sacrifice. However, the A’s had to settle for just one run--although Fowler also got a piece of McGee with a double to center, Desmond threw him out trying to stretch out for a triple of his own.

The A’s had their best opportunity to tack on runs in the fifth, with a Sean Murphy walk and a Laureano double. However, Profar’s sharp comebacker to Wade Davis (1IP, 1H, 0ER, 1BB, 1K) caught Murphy between third and home, and he ended up tagged out by opposing catcher Tom Murphy (no relation). Despite two runners in scoring position with no outs, Oakland’s offense was unable to capitalize, and Olson ended the inning with a groundout to short.

Rockies pitchers Carlos Estévez and DJ Johnson silenced the A’s offense for the final three innings, only allowing moderately well hit singles to second baseman Corban Joseph and left fielder Tyler Ramirez. These hits were described by the broadcast as, respectively, "chopped" and "slapped."

Other than the three homeruns, Oakland’s pitching was mostly solid, with the usual support from a talented defense.

In the first and second innings, the Rockies managed some good contact off Brett Anderson, starting with a ground ball single from Nolan Arenado in the first. In the second, Colorado’s batters served up three sharp line drives to center fielder Laureano--a lineout from Story and singles by Desmond and Dahl.

In both innings, the A’s infield rescued Anderson by way of two double plays. In the first, Daniel Murphy (no relation) grounded to Olson and Semien bobbled Olson’s throw, but he regained control and completed the play with Anderson covering first. The second inning featured a well-executed 6-4-3 play, as Profar turned Semien’s feed to a stretching Olson to put out Reynolds. Anderson finally settled down with a 1-2-3 bottom of the third, putting down Tom Murphy (still no relation), Peter Mooney, and Charlie Blackmon in order.

On Chris Bassitt’s first pitch in the bottom of the fifth, Mooney hit a line drive single to Fowler, who had taken over for Laureano in center. Fowler showed off his arm with a strong throw to Semien, cutting down Mooney as he was trying for two. (Note--according to the radio broadcast, this was Greg Deichmann’s assist, but Gameday and the box score say it was Fowler. I’m guessing with all the replacements, the announcers missed the fact that Fowler moved to center and Deichmann was in right).

Overall, while spring training stats mean squat due to the small sample size, it’s still discouraging to see the heavy hitters bats so quiet. Semien’s all-around day and Canha’s clutch hitting, however, offered some rays of sunshine. As for Anderson and Bassitt, both remain viable options who probably just ran out of steam, but today’s game probably doesn’t do much to move the needle on pending roster decisions.