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Game #99: Semien, A’s bullpen stellar in win vs. Twins

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Shortstop Marcus Semien went a single short of hitting for the cycle and the A’s bullpen was stellar across four innings as the Oakland Athletics (56-42) defeated the Minnesota Twins (59-37) by a score of 5-3 on this sweltering evening at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Click here for game thread #1

Click here for game thread #2

The A’s struck early. Leading off in the first inning, Marcus Semien opened the scoring straight away with a home run on a 1-1 fastball from Twins starter Jake Odorizzi. The line drive smash to left was Semien’s 15th long ball of the season and his 50th RBI.

Soon after, with two on, designated hitter Khris Davis singled up the middle to score right fielder Mark Canha. A’s starter Chris Bassitt got into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the first, yielding a one out double to Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco followed by a walk to designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Two quick outs ensued from there, however, and the inning ended with the A’s up 2-0.

The Twins halved their scoring deficit in the second inning. Bassitt got two outs in three pitches to start the frame, but then allowed runners on first and second for the second straight inning by walking third baseman Miguel Sanó and giving up a single to catcher Jason Castro. Center fielder Max Kepler then grounded weakly to Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson, but the inning was extended as Oly simply failed to field the ball, which trickled into right field as Sano easily scored on the error. The Twins were on the board thanks to what was possibly the most embarrassing misplay of Olson’s big league career, though fortunately the price of his gaffe was limited to one run.

More mistakes, this time of the pitching variety, led to a reversal in the bottom of the third. Bassitt hit Nelson Cruz with a 2-2 curveball to issue him a second free pass. Two outs later, right fielder Marwin Gonzalez was gifted a 71 mph hanging curve that wound up in the center field bleachers, cleared the bases, and tipped the game in the Twins’ favor. Bassitt also hit Luis Arraez after Gonzalez’s home run, but no further damage resulted.

A’s center fielder Ramon Laureano led off the fourth inning with a double that was only an extra base hit because Ramon recognized that Kepler, fielding the ball in shallow center, was not of duly vigilant posture, and Laser had the audacity to take another base.

Ramon was in scoring position with no outs, but Khris Davis and left fielder Robbie Grossman followed with hard hit lineouts and catcher Chris Herrmann frustratingly flew out to end a scoreless frame.

The A’s fared better in the fifth and tied the game. Marcus Semien picked up his 25th double of the season and Matt Olson earned some redemption with a two out RBI single. Bassitt completed a scoreless bottom frame to wrap up a five inning appearance with five hits and three runs allowed, and two apiece of strikeouts and walks. Bassitt’s performance was flawed but serviceable, and he would ultimately get his seventh win of the season thanks to timely run support from the A’s offense and the bullpen’s shutdown performance. Odorizzi also exited after the fifth; thus the game entered its bullpen phase mid-game, the score 3-3.

The A’s jumped ahead quickly as the battle of bullpens commenced. Right handed reliever Ryne Harper took over for the Twins at the top of the sixth. Ramon Laureano, who it should be noted is absolutely destroying at baseball right now, led off the sixth with a second double that was not for naught this time: Khris Davis promptly hit his second RBI single of the game to plate Ramon and put the A’s up by one. The A’s added one more in the inning on a frozen rope to left from third baseman Chad Pinder that allowed Grossman, who had reached second via fielder’s choice and stolen base, to score.

The A’s offense would not score again after the sixth inning, but their bullpen combined to allow just three baserunners across four innings and carry the team to victory. Lefty Ryan Buchter was first out of the pen for the A’s and delivered his first four out appearance of the season while holding the A’s two run lead. Joakim Soria got the remaining two outs in the seventh as well as the first out in the eighth before handing it off to closer Liam Hendriks for a five out assignment. Hendriks did his job perfectly: he struck out Sanó and pinch hitting catcher Mitch Garver with six pitches in the eighth, and followed with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to earn his seventh save of 2019. Liam was touching 99 mph frequently and with precision. His ERA now stands at a svelte 1.17 on the season.

With the A’s victory and the Tampa Bay Rays losing 9-2 to the Chicago White Sox today, Oakland now has sole possession of the second AL Wild Card spot and is just one game behind the Cleveland Indians for the first spot. The four game series in Minneapolis, now tied at a game apiece, continues tomorrow at 4:10pm PDT. A’s starter Brett Anderson (9-5, 3.79 ERA) will face José Berríos (8-5, 3.10 ERA) for the Twins.

Mac & Cheeeeez

  • Laser Ramon Superstar. This guy’s playing, on both sides of the ball, has left me speechless of late. A moment of silent awe, then.
  • Chappy come back? Any kind of fool can see there was something in everything about him. AL MVP candidate Matt Chapman has been day-to-day with left ankle soreness since Wednesday’s game against the Mariners in the third inning. He came in as a defensive sub in the ninth tonight; hopefully this is a prelude to a start tomorrow. Stay tuned..
  • Speaking of comebacks, it looks like Sean Manaea is due for a promotion.