Daniel Mengden has always pitched through stretches where he’s looked strong enough to merit a permanent spot in the rotation, but he has been too inconsistent to be warranted one. Whether he is starting the game or has an opener before him, it is impossible to tell which Mengden, the “good” or the “bad,” will be pitching until the game begins. With a big three game series against the Astros in Houston beginning tomorrow, it was imperative that in today’s game, the team got the “good” version.
Mengden entered today’s game having won his last four decisions, and by happenstance had not walked a single batter in any of those starts. Today, Mengden labored through 3 ⅓ innings with four runs allowed, and just never looked comfortable on the mound. In the first, Mengden went to a full count to the first three batters he faced, allowing two doubles in the process, and he threw 34 pitches.
In the second, another double and his first of five walks preceded a no doubt three run home run to Max Kepler. There was no damage in the third, but Mengden continued to fall behind hitters and gave up two more walks, raising his pitch count to 72 after the third out. He didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, exiting the game after walking two more Twins’ following a hard hit out to start the frame. Wei-Chung Wang entered the game to relieve Mengden, and Wang escaped the inning with two quick outs to prevent any further damage.
One-two reliable outings and then a stinker isn't going to cut it for Mengden once Manaea is available or in the strong possibility the A's acquire another starter. He needs to find some consistency.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 21, 2019
On the day, Mengden faced 16 total left handed hitters. Ten of them reached base, via one home run, three doubles, four walks, and two singles.
Meanwhile, beyond three walks and a single that Olson was thrown out on while trying to stretch it into a double, the A’s offense was dead silent through four innings. The fifth began as more of the same, as Grossman grounded out to start things off. However, Jurickson Profar had a wonderful at bat, working the count full before a tremendous take on a tempting low offspeed pitch for a walk. After Josh Phegley got ahead 2-1, he jumped all over a low fastball.
Semien and Chapman then each had singles on two of the next three pitches, and the A’s looked to still be in business. Unfortunately, after looking so strong in his first two at bats, Olson struck out, and Mark Canha grounded out to end the threat.
Just as the A’s were getting back within striking distance, some BABIP luck extended the Twins’ lead once more. A hard hit single to left was followed by two meager fly ball singles to right field to push another run home, making the score 5-2. A walk loaded the bases, and then it was the slick defense of Olson to the rescue.
A sharply hit ground ball to first was scooped up by Olson, who scooped up the ball, and then stepped on first and threw the ball to home plate in one fluid motion. Phegley caught Olson’s throw and got the tag on the runner diving to home just in time. Wang got the final out of the inning on a line drive to the strong fielding Chapman.
Semien had one of his patented great at bats and worked a seven pitch walk to start the sixth. Chapman followed the walk with a towering fly ball that was mere feet from leaving the yard, but instead hit off the top of the wall. Semien needed to hold between first and second to ensure the ball wasn’t caught, and therefore the A’s could not get a run out of the well-struck ball. Olson nearly hit a home run himself, but his wound up just a couple of feet to the right of the right field foul pole for a long strike. Olson, Canha, and Laureano then each struck out, though Semien did score on a wild pitch before the third out.
Lou Trivino was charged with the sixth and seventh inning for Oakland. He needed some help in the sixth, but like with Olson the inning before, the A’s infield defense cleaned up the reliever’s mess. With two on and two out, what looked to be a sure run scoring single to left field found itself ensnared in the glove of Semien, who made an offline throw to second that was just barely caught by Chad Pinder, who tagged second base with his falling body to make a force out to end the inning and save a run. Trivino needed no help in the seventh, retiring the side in order.
The A’s entered the eighth inning down 5-4. The Twins’ Trevor May, who gave up the run on the wild pitch the inning prior, remained in the game to pitch despite not typically pitching for multiple innings. He went full to Davis before inducing a fly ball out to right and then went full to Robbie Grossman before walking him. Chris Herrmann, pinch hitting for Pinder, missed a home run by a couple of inches, and instead had to settle for run scoring double as the ball hit the top of the high wall in right center and bounded away from the outfielders.
Herrmann was replaced with Franklin Barreto on the basepaths, and Barreto immediately got to advance to third on a passed ball off the glove of Jason Castro. Josh Phegley, already with two RsBI on the day on his home run, hit a sacrifice fly to drive Barreto home. For the first time all game, the A’s had a lead, 6-5.
Joakim Soria entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, and he was welcomed with a missed catch error from Laureano that resulted in two bases for the hitter, Polanco. But, just like in the fifth inning, and just like in the sixth inning, the A’s infield defense lay any concerns to rest. With Nelson Cruz up, Semien used his range to turn a run scoring single into a spectacular out.
With one out and a runner on third, Soria got the dangerous Eddie Rosario to foul out near third base on one pitch. Miguel Sano then struck out after getting fooled by a high and tight curveball. Miraculously, the A’s escaped the inning with no runs allowed.
The team would not be so lucky in the bottom of the ninth.
Liam Hendiks, even though he has been heavily used this series, took over the mound to close out the last inning. With one out, Luis Arraez hit a long single to left field. After working the count some, Ehire Adrianza ripped a double to right field, banging high off of the wall for a game tying triple. There was no chance for the defense to bail out their pitcher. Hendriks got a strikeout of Castro for the second out of the inning, but Kepler, who hit the three run home run earlier in the game, singled to center and ended things. Twins win a fun, hard-fought game 7-6.
Next three games are against Houston, starting tomorrow at 5:10.