What do we say to bullpen disasters?
The A’s took tonight’s series opener against the Baltimore Orioles at the Coliseum by a score of 3-2. Both teams did damage with the assistance of throwing errors, but in the end the A’s pitching allowed them to edge the O’s. Mike Fiers posted another excellent start for his seventh win of the season, Liam Hendriks retired all four batters faced in the setup role, and Blake Treinen capped it off, looking like last year’s model and closing the game in style.
The A’s took an early lead in the first with some great at-bats from the top of the order. Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson all exhibited patience at the plate and worked Orioles’ righty starter Andrew Cashner to full counts. Semien sent a fastball for a leadoff double, extending his current hitting streak to 14 games. Chapman grounded out but advanced Semien to third, making it all the easier for Marcus to score when Olson ripped a high changeup down the first base line for a double. Cashner worked out of the inning from there, but his pitch count was already at 28 when he headed to the dugout.
The Orioles turned the tables in the top of the second, taking the lead on bunts and a Chapman error. Orioles designated hitter Pedro Severino led off with a single to Robbie Grossman in left field. Third baseman Rio Ruiz came up next and laid a sacrifice bunt down the third base line that—left untouched—may have rolled foul, but Chapman charged, fielded, turned, and threw the ball to Olson, who could not quite come up with it on a hop. The ball rolled well into the ample foul territory of Rickey Henderson Field, allowing Severino to score and Ruiz to advance all the way to third.
Error by Chapman on bunt by Ruiz, throw gets past Olson and Severino scores to tie it up 1-1.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) June 18, 2019
It seemed a case of Chapman simply trying to do a bit too much; then again, the A’s Gold Glove third baseman wouldn’t have surprised us if he’d managed to pull it off. Orioles second baseman Hanser Alberto came up next and plated Ruiz with a sacrifice bunt of his own. The Orioles carried a 2-1 lead to the third inning, thanks also to a much easier 1-2-3 bottom of the second for Cashner.
Cashner and the Orioles paid for some wildness and clumsy fielding in the bottom of the third, allowing the A’s to flip the script and retake the advantage. Cashner began the inning by hitting Josh Phegley to send him to first, and then walked Semien after a protracted 3-2 battle. Chappy chopped an infield single to his counterpart Rio Ruiz to load the bases. Then the Orioles suffered a major mishap of their own. Matt Olson grounded to Ruiz, who forced Phegs out with a throw to catcher Chance Sisco, who then threw past Chris Davis at first, allowing Semien to score easily and Chapman to score the go-ahead run on a very close sliding play at home that was originally called an out but overruled on appeal by the replay team in New York. The A’s led 3-2 at the end of three.
Both Fiers and Cashner settled in and delivered 1-2-3 fourth and fifth innings while retiring long successions of batters. Fiers was actually in lockdown mode from after the follies of the second inning all the way into the seventh, retiring 17 batters in a row. He had to grind a bit through the early innings, but both Orioles’ runs could easily have been prevented with better defense. All told, Fiers delivered a terrific line: six and two-thirds innings, three hits, two unearned runs, two walks, and four strikeouts in another quality start. Andrew Cashner battled through six and retired 11 in a row from the third into the sixth, his run of perfection ended by a two out double from Ramon Laureano. Cashner also put up a quality start that was foiled by his team’s dismal defense, which was on display at several points in the game.
The evening’s comedy of errors had become a pitching clinic as the score remained static for the game’s remainder. Fiers got into a bit of trouble in the seventh and was relieved by Liam Hendriks with two outs and two on. Hendriks got Chris Davis looking to end the frame. Jimmy Yacabonis relieved Cashner to start the bottom of the seventh and struck out Piscotty, Profar, and Chapman, ending the frame with Phegley and Semien stranded. Both teams stayed the course with the same relievers in the eighth, and Blake Treinen walked out to save the win for Fiers in the top of the ninth. Tonight, the A’s drew the Blake of Yore, as Treinen quickly got his 16th save of the season with 11 pitches in a quiet ninth, and the A’s held on to win by a run.
The series continues tomorrow at 7:07pm PDT. A’s lefty Brett Anderson (6-4, 3.89 ERA) will face Orioles’ righty Gabriel Ynoa (0-3, 5.02 ERA). Ynoa’ll be doing his best to help the Orioles tie the series, but you know I’ll be rooting for the A’s to clinch the series and set up a bid to sweep it on Wednesday.
The More You Know...
- Mighty Marcus deserves a moment of reverent appreciation. Semien is quietly leading the A’s in games played (74), plate appearances (337), hits (83), runs (48), batting average (.280), and WAR (2.9 coming into tonight’s game). He sparked the A’s offense tonight with a leadoff double after expertly working Andrew Cashner to a full count, and made it around the bases to score a difference-making run. He’s now tied with Matt Chapman with 16 doubles to lead the A’s. If, unlike the voting public, the MLB players and commissioner’s office have a lick of sense, Marcus Semien will appear in this July’s All Star Game.
- Setup swap? It appears that Liam Hendriks may have blown up Lou Trivino’s spot for the moment. Lou’s still got great stuff, but the control just isn’t there. We know he’ll get it back, hopefully sooner than later.
A's Lou Trivino to get 'different look' to get back on track, plus who might work the eighth while Trivino regains his form: https://t.co/oIbmUBYkML— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) June 18, 2019
- Eighth no More. I’m referring to blowing games in said inning, here (OK, maybe that’s an excessively acrobatic 80s/90s alt rock reference). The A’s have been losing late leads a lot lately, I lament with alliteration. Our own Alex Hall has been tallying the damage:
This is the fifth time this season that the #Athletics have lost when leading after 7 innings. Only had two such losses last year.— Alex Hall (@AlexHallAN) June 16, 2019
Hopefully Treinen’s lights-out save tonight marks a shift back to the A’s extremely consistent late-innings performance last year.