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Game #36: Another Late Loss

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

It was a game of pain and ecstasy. Frustration and elation. In the end, it was mostly pain and frustration.

**Link to the Game Thread: Full of Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice**

From the early going, it was clear that this was going to be a hard-fought game, and that runs were going to come at a premium. Jordan Lyles was throwing darts with extreme horizontal movement from the moment the game began. The righty struck out two batters in the first inning, and then retired eight A’s in a row between the second and fifth inning. The A’s just had no answer for him out of the gate.

At the same time, Montas was nearly just as strong. The A’s ace wound up tossing six innings with just five base runners and one run allowed. That run came in the second after Josh Bell, fresh off of his two home run game yesterday, blasted a double to the deepest corner in center field, advanced to third on a ground out, and scored on a sacrifice fly ball to right field. Beyond that, however, was complete silence from the Pirates’ offense. After an error-riddled start his last time out, Montas once again looked like the dominant pitcher he has appeared as all season long.

This was a dangerous game to be a left fielder on the A’s. The first batter of Montas’ dominating start, Adam Frazier, lofted a lazy fly ball into foul territory in left field. Khris Davis, in the field in lieu of his usual DH position, made a nice, difficult catch, but in the process crashed hard into the jutting fence, and wound up needing to leave the game with a hip contusion. Later in the game, Davis’ replacement in left, Chad Pinder, would crash into the wall while making a catch and walked away looking beat up as well.

This was also a tough game for Ramon Laureano. In the first, he struck out on three pitches after Marcus Semien worked a walk. In his next at bat, he grounded out on one pitch. In his next at bat, with the bases loaded, he grounded out on one pitch. In his fourth at bat, with runners on first and third, Laureano grounded out after a hard-fought at bat that lasted seven pitches. Laureano had six at bats in this game, only reaching base once after walking on four pitches against a tired and wild relief pitcher.

The fourth Laureano at bat had a different context than the rest of them, for in that inning, the seventh, the A’s fought back and tied the game up at one apiece. Despite their dominance, both Lyles and Montas were beginning to get exposed by the fifth inning, but neither team was able to capitalize. After the A’s loaded the bases in the fifth, Montas’ out streak ended and two of the first three Pirates’ batters smacked hard hit singles to threaten to extend Pittsburgh’s lead. Fortunately, a pop out and a strikeout ended the threat. In the sixth, the Pirates’ first two batters, Frazier and Starling Marte, doubled and singled to place runners on first and second. The only reason a run didn’t score on the single was due to a baserunning blunder on Frazier’s behalf.

Although he was marred in a near-impossible situation on the mound, Montas worked out of danger yet again. Laureano’s growing reputation in center field prevented Frazier from tagging up on a fairly deep potential sacrifice fly for the first out of the inning. A strikeout and a line out to second base ended the inning, miraculously no runs scoring.

Perhaps embiggened by Montas’ escape the half inning prior, the A’s offense finally got to Lyles in the top half of the seventh. After two quick outs, the disparaged Nick Hundley hit a ball solidly into the left field corner for a double. Following that, pinch hitting for Montas, the disparaged Robbie Grossman slapped a single the opposite way into left field for a game-tying single, officially knocking Lyles out of the game.

What had been an intense duel between starting pitchers turned into an intense duel between bullpens. Lou Trivino, healthy and well rested, was the first out of the pen for the A’s. He notched two strikeouts and two walks en route to two scoreless innings. After Trivino, Joakim Soria, Ryan Buchter, and Yusmeiro Petit pitched four total scoreless innings without allowing a single baserunner. At the same time, the A’s also couldn’t reach base for the first three innings of extras against the strong Pirates’ bullpen. For a while, it really seemed as if the next team to score a run would win the game.

In the thirteenth inning, Pirates’ reliever Tyler Lyon’s threw nine consecutive balls to start the inning to start an A’s rally. After Pinder grounded into a force out, Kendrys Morales boinked a single to center field to score one run, and Stephen Piscotty ripped a double off of the right field wall to score another, the A’s suddenly ahead 3-1. The A’s could have put even more runs on the board with Petit, of all people, at the plate, but what was nearly a single up the middle was instead a ground ball that deflected off of Lyon, bounding directly to third base for an easy force out before the ball was slung back across the infield for a double play.

With Blake Treinen unavailable for today’s game with elbow soreness, it was the hot-and-cold Fernando Rodney charged with closing the game out.

He did not do his job. In five batters, the Pirates scored four runs, the final three coming on a walkoff home run from Starling Marte. The A’s lost 5-3 in thirteen innings, and fall to a shoddy 15-21 on the year.

The A’s are a better team than this. The wins are going to start coming soon enough. There is too much talent on the roster for this type of play to continue.

But, wow, this has been disappointing.