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Game #35: A Game Lost In The Rain

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The rain teased the A’s with the potential of a win on a game cut short, but as the downpour faded, so did the A’s chances of winning. A hot start and a mid-game rally was not enough as the Pirates took advantage of the A’s vulnerable bullpen.

***Revisit Game Thread 1 | Game Thread 2***

The Bats:

Matt Chapman picked up where the A’s left off last night with a deep double to right field in the 1st, Khris Davis followed up by a laser liner single that scored Chappy. Kendrys Morales was up next and hit a fly to short right field that landed and bounced over Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, letting Kendrys get a stand-up RBI triple. Piscotty hit a chip shot single to left to score Morales, followed up by Jurickson Profar rolling a single past Josh Bell. The Pirates finally got a third out from the A’s as Josh Phegley popped out to the infield to end the two out rally.

As the rain picked up in the 2nd inning it started cooling off the A’s bats, after the big rally in the 1st the next 3 innings followed with only a Semien walk and Morales getting his second hit of the game.

The 5th inning was when the A’s took the rain and turned it into a lightning strike. Matt Chapman elevated the ball to hit a triple off of the ridiculously high right field wall and Khris Davis scored Chapman with a blazing single down the centre of the infield. Kendrys grounded out into a double play to end the inning, but the A’s pushed into the lead with Chapman’s go-ahead run.

Skye Bolt came up in the pitcher’s spot to lead off the 7th inning for the A’s and worked a full count with a couple of hard hit fouls. On the 7th pitch of the at-bat, Skye bolted the ball a foot shy of a home run to get his first major league hit.

The A’s were quiet in the 8th after losing the lead, going down 1-2-3. It all came down to facing off against the Pirates’ fireball closer Felipe Vasquez. While Vasquez was throwing 99mph fastballs both Phegley and pinch-hitting Ramon Laureano made solid contact, they both also hit straight to fielders for easy outs.

Marcus Semien rolled the ball through the infield to get on base, and while Pinder came up to PH, Semien moved to second. Chad Pinder saw his share of pitches on the high outside corner, but ended up striking out swinging against a high fastball to end the game.

While it was a disappointing back half of the game offensively, Matt Chapman, Kendrys Morales, and Khris Davis both went 2-for-4 with Davis racking 2 RBI. Marcus Semien also stayed productive with a hit and a walk, though he was unable to join any of the major rallies.

The Bass:

Chris Bassitt cruised through his first inning, but the 2nd proved to give him some troubles. Josh Bell rocked a leadoff homer and Bassitt walked two Pirates, but he managed to keep the inning from getting out of hand with some tidy strike outs. The 3rd inning brought Josh Bell up again, and Bell drove the ball out again to the batter’s eye to tie the game.

The Pirates started picking up Bassitt’s pitches better on their second trip through the lineup, including a solid hit by the Pirates’ starter. Working Chris into deep counts in the second inning really inflated his pitch count, leaving him at 82 pitches through the 4th inning.

The Hound’s curveball was working well, Bassitt used the curve as an out pitch in 3 of his 5 strikeouts, Bassitt’s curve is so effective largely due to the massive speed decrease he takes when he he inserts it to a count, taking a 20mph drop off of the velocity of the rest of his pitches allows for the change in movement.

Looking at this chart of his pitch speeds its ridiculously easy to count the 14 curveballs that Bassitt threw tonight.

Bassitt got his 13th out of the game with a sliding catch off the mound and a throw from his knees to beat Starling Marte to first base. It had to be replay reviewed in order to be ruled out, but Bassitt showed some great defence. He ended his strongest inning and his appearance by striking out Josh Bell to get a bit of revenge.

The Bullpen:

Liam Hendricks came in for the 6th inning as the rain was really picking up and it seemed like the umps could call the game at any moment. Liam had a shaky start giving up 2 singles on his first 4 pitches. A sac bunt and an intentional walk later, and Hendricks has the bases loaded with only one out. It takes striking out the pinch-hitting Jung Ho Kang, and getting Adam Frazier to pop out to Semien, but Hendricks worked his way out of the bases loaded jam.

The bottom of the 7th was J.B. Wendelkin’s. J.B. got his first out easy, but Gregory Polanco bounced a deep double off the right field fence. After intentionally walking Josh Bell then getting him out at a fielder’s choice, Kevin Newman hit a low fastball to the right field corner for a triple, clearing the bases and giving the pirates the lead.

Wendelkin’s woes continued, Francisco Cervelli hit a grounder past Chapman to score Newman, and pinch-hitting-pitcher Joe Musgrove came out with a surprise bunt hit. J.B. stopped the bleeding by striking out Kang.

Ryan Buchter was brought out for the bottom of the 8th, as the Pirates had three lefty hitters due up. Two quick fly outs to the outfield were followed by what could have been a quick ground out, but Profar’s grounder throw to first did not manage to beat out Polanco. Buchter faced the righty Josh Bell, induced a third fly out, and the A’s moved on to their last chance against Pittsburgh.

The Buccos:

Josh Bell was the highlight of the Pittsburgh lineup, hitting two homers off of Bassitt to score the Pirates’ first three runs. Bell’s second homer was 111mph off the bat and ran for 450 feet, it was an impressive blast considering the third inning was when the rain started moving from a drizzle to a downpour.

Trevor Williams pitched 6 innings, and while the A’s strung hits together in the 1st and 5th to get runs, he was effective in shutting down production through a large part of his time on the mound. The A’s were seeing his fastball pretty well, but a lot of the contact that was made ended up finding its way to a Pirates fielder quickly.

A tough break for the Bucs, as after one batter faced, reliever Keone Kela left the game with an injury. This, on the same day that their ace Jamieson Tallion hit the IL.

The combo of the 7th inning rally and hot bullpen to close out the game kept the A’s out of the win column, and Pittsburgh proved that they wouldn’t lay down for the Oakland bats two games in a row.

It was a tense game overall, as the heavy rain made any inning after the 5th feel like the 9th. As the actual 9th inning approached the A’s just weren't able to capitalize. There is still some upside as Oakland was productive at the plate and chained hits, Skye Bolt was able to start moving his strong AAA season to the majors with his introductory hit, and while the bullpen faltered, the A’s look to be less than a week away from seeing Matt Olson back in the lineup. The Buccos were able to pull ahead to even out the series, and the Athletics move to 15-20 on the season.

Tomorrow the A’s end their road trip on by sending Frankie Montas out against the Pirates’ Jordan Lyles for a hopefully drier day game.