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Game #88: Messy Defeat by Twins in Twelve

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics
Jul 3, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Ramon Laureano (22) makes a sliding catch of a line drive by Minnesota Twins designated hitter Jorge Polanco during the sixth inning of a baseball game at Oakland Coliseum. 
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

There’s rarely a dull inning with the Athletics, and this was indeed the case in tonight’s game against the Twins that went deep into extra innings. While Mike Fiers had a strong outing, he did not get a win as it was swept away quickly via the relief pitching that followed. This is not to say the bullpen was bad, the hitting was just better. Overall, the bullpen was stellar until the 12th inning when Blake Treinen gave up two walks and the go-ahead run to lose the game 3-4 and deny the A’s their fifth win in a row.

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In the second inning, the A’s nabbed a 3-0 lead through a series of balls put in play that pushed the A’s ahead. Khris Davis started by putting the ball in play and getting on base on a throwing error by first baseman C.J. Cron’s throwing error to pitcher Kyle Gibson. Mark Canha with an eagle eye then got aboard with a walk and no outs. Ramon Laureano didn’t waste any time. On a 94 MPH, two-seam fastball—Laureano hit the ball deep to center field, notching his 14th homer of the season and three RBIs.

The A’s had a number of possible scoring innings. For example, in the fourth inning, Ramon Laureano led off with a single to left field. Robbie Grossman followed suit, dropping a single into right field, causing further frustration to Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson. Barreto with quick feet picked up a fielder’s choice, beating out a potential double play when he grounded up the middle. With runners on first and third, Josh Phegley began his at-bat with a called strike. Unfortunately it didn’t get much better as he grounded up the middle to pitcher Kyle Gibson who threw to Schoop at second who then threw to Cron at first for the double play. Despite this and other similar innings, the A’s were putting the ball in play and working hard to manufacture runs.

In the sixth with two outs, Laureano picked up a walk and then stole second base. Definitely one of the most consistent manufacturers on the night, he was left stranded yet again as Franklin Barreto ended the inning with a strikeout. Also left stranded was Matt Chapman in the seventh when he picked up his 22nd double of the season with a line drive to left fielder Luis Arraez. Unfortunately Zack Littell proceeded to strikeout Matt Olson to end the inning and leave Chapman stranded. More about the Athletics’ offense in a few paragraphs.

Mike Fiers was his usual solid self. Bold curve balls often caught the Twins looking. Mixing his pitches, including his strong splitter, he consistently teased the corners of the plate and yielded the returns hoped for. Fiers didn’t give up his first hit until the sixth inning when Miguel Sano hit a double down the left field line. This two-out double yielded no runs for the Twinkies, however.

Fiers did get himself in a bit of a jam in the sixth inning. Schoop led off with a single to center field. After Byron Buxton popped out, Max Keppler hit a liner to center field and put runners on first and second. On a wild pitch, the runners advanced to second and third. Mitch Garver then came in to knock an RBI single to right fielder Mark Canha and score Schoop. This set the table for Jorge Palanco. Palanco, with 39 RBIs on the season, could not beat the speed of Laureano; Palanco’s short flare to center was snagged in a sliding catch by Laureano who popped up to get the ball back in quickly and hold the runner at first. With two outs and the bullpen up and warming, Fiers was able to get C.J. Cron to hit a flare to third, caught by Chapman to end the threat and inning.

Fiers left with a 3-1 lead in the seventh after he gave up his 5th hit of the game. Giving up only one earned run with four strikeouts, overall his outing was a success. Yusmeiro Petit came in for the seventh and immediately picked up an out thanks to the strong tracking skills of Matt Chapman who caught a high foul ball near the bullpen mounds. But that was the last of the steady and strong Athletics and a slow unraveling began.

Ehire Adrianza singled up the middle to put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh. On a grounder by Schoop to Semien, Marcus tossed to Franklin Barreto who made an errant throw to first base, eliminating the double play opportunity; the first portion of the play was challenged by Minnesota because Barreto neglected to tag second base prior to the throw. The challenge was upheld and runners were placed on second and third. Next, the action really ramped up. On an attempted bunt squeeze that was missed by Twins’ Byron Buxton, the A’s caught a break and were able to run-down Ehire Adrianza in a caught-stealing scenario (Phegley to Chapman to Petit for the tag). With two outs, Petit then struck out Buxton on a curveball. The A’s maintained the lead 3-2 despite this action-packed and messy seventh.

In the eighth inning, Buchter did his one-man job by getting Max Kepler to hit a ground ball to Barreto who threw to Olson at first for the out. Joakim Soria replaced Buchter to face Mitch Garver. Soria had some help on the first batter faced from fleet-footed Mark Canha who ran down a fly ball on the line in right field. With two outs, it looked like Soria would get out of the inning. This was not to be, however, when Palanco hit his 12th homer of the season to tie the game 3-3. Soria did get out of the inning by striking out C.J. Cron, but the damage was done.

In the bottom of the 8th, Ryan Harper replaced Zack Littell for the Twins and went right to work on the Athletics. He started by striking out Khris Davis. On a 75mph curve, Canha was able to push one through the infield the opposite way for a base hit. Laureano followed with a deep fly to left but it lost steam and seemed to die with such little velocity off of the bat, Harper’s slow curve coming into play. Robbie Grossman, 1-2 on the night, fell victim to the 12-6 breaking ball as well to end the 8th.

Liam Hendriks, named AL Relief Pitcher of the Month today, replaced Soria. Giving a leadoff single to Luis Arraez, Henriks rebounded quickly. On a 1-1 count, he was able to get Miguel Sano to fly out to Grossman in left. A quick throw in by Grossman kept Arraez on first. Ehire Adrianza, 1-3 on the night, got behind on the count 0-2 to give Hendriks the upper hand; Henriks took down Adrianza with an up-and-out fastball that was in Phegley’s glove before Adrianza’s swing started. Facing Jonathan Schoop, Hendriks worked himself into a favorable 2-2 count. A hard slider got Schoop chasing it for the second strikeout to end the inning.

Tyler Duffey came in to pitch for the Twins in the bottom of the 9th. Barreto almost beat out an infield grounder but was a half step behind the throw. Phegley (0-2 on the night) followed with the second out of the inning, a can of corn to right fielder Max Kepler. Marcus Semien (1-4) quickly got behind 0-2 by watching two heaters low in the zone. On a slider, Semien grounded out to second baseman Jonathan Schoop who threw him out at first and led the teams into extra innings.

Hendriks returned for the 10th, doing his job flawlessly. On a 2-2 count, Hendriks pushed Byron Buxton to line out to left fielder Robbie Grossman. Following suit, Max Kepler grounded to second baseman Franklin Barretto, and Mitch Garver flew out to Canha in right for out #3. Bravo Liam, Bravo!

In the bottom of the 10th, Matt Chapman had quite the eye. Laying off two splitters, he went ahead in the count. Missing a fat fastball down the middle, relieve pitcher Blake Parker dodged a bullet but not completely: Chapman walked to become the go-ahead run on first. Matt Olson followed suit with a great eye and a second walk to put runners on first and second.

Khris Davis then came in and hit a grounder to Sano at third base who made the mistake of trying to tag Chapman, rather than going for the double play (5-4-3). As a result, Chapman made it to third safely, Olson was out on a throw to second and Davis was aboard with a fielder’s choice. With one out and runners on first and third, the Twins pulled both their infielders and outfielders in for Mark Canha. Unfortunately, Canha hit a slow roller to third that led to a throw home where Chapman was called out. The A’s did challenge the play based on their view that Chapman hit his toe on the plate prior to the tag. After a long wait for the call to New York, the call was upheld and the second out on the board. In post-game comments, Bob Melvin stated that he from what he saw, Chapman was safe but perhaps New York has additional camera angles that are not available to all.

With Khris Davis on second and Mark Canha on first, Bob Melvin elected to have Jurickson Profar come off the bench and pinch-run for Davis. With Ramon Laureano at the plate and a hot bat (2-3 on the night with a walk), pitcher Blake Parker dominated, striking out Laureano who was thrown out at first on a blocked swinging strike in the dirt. Onto the 11th inning with Lou Trivino replacing Liam Hendriks after two strong innings.

All-Star Jorge Polanco, and the reason that there was extra inning play, led off the 11th inning. He was quickly dispatched, grounding to Matt Olson who handled the out unassisted. C.J. Cron followed and was walked by Trivino, becoming the go-ahead run at first. With a full count on Arraez, C.J. Cron—with a minimal lead—took off running on a textbook hit-and-run as Arraez placed a single perfectly between first and second base; Cron advanced to third. Miguel Sano, with only one out in the inning, clearly did not do what was expected or intended; Sano popped up to Matt Olson in foul territory short of first base instead of yielding a deep sacrifice fly to score the runner. Trivino can be credited with an excellent pitch up and in to help get the out. With two outs and runners on first and second, Trivino faced Ehire Adrianza—quickly getting ahead in the count 1-2 and eventually getting him to strikeout swinging and head to the bottom of the 11th.

The 11th began with more bat action from the Athletics. On an 0-2 changeup, Robbie Grossman pushed a liner between right and center to get on base for the leadoff single. Barreto followed, attempting to bunt and quickly getting behind 0-2 and brought Barreto back to full swings. After not getting a close call that was probably a strike, pitcher Blake Parker threw a wild pitch that advanced Grossman into scoring position at second. Unfortunately, Barreto did not get the walk-off single hoped for; for the second time he swung on a pitch out of the strike zone to strike out. All totalled, Barreto struck out three times in his five at-bats. Chris Herrmann, coming off a grand slam for his first A’s at-bat, pinch hit for Josh Phegley with one out. Unfortunately, Herrmann fell prey to a good mix of pitches and struck out swinging. Marcus Semien became the final hope but flew out to left for the final out of the inning. Onto the 12th.

Blake Treinen began the 12th with a strikeout of Jonathan Schoop. Facing Byron Buxton who did little with his bat so far in this game, Treinen walked him on a full count. Buxton, with his speed, definitely posed a threat to the Athletics and would be the final nail in the coffin. Max Kepler, 1-5 on the night, got ahead in the count, laying off Treinen’s sinker, and became the second one-out walk for the inning. With runners on first and second, Mitch Garver sought to pick up a second RBI of the game, but that was tough to do when he was given three sinkers in a row, all falling out of the strike zone for balls; he eventually was able to power a fastball moving in on him and push it for a slow line drive to left field that allowed Buxton to score from second base. With the Twins moving ahead 4-3, Treinen was pulled by Melvin for Brian Schlitter who would face runners on first and third with one out. Shlitter proceeded to walk Jorge Polanco—the third walk of the inning—and move on to face C.J. Cron.

Chapman became the savior of the 12th! On a Platinum Glove play at third, Chapman fielded a Cron grounder, ran a few steps to third to tag the bag and heave the ball to first for a double play.

Leading off against Taylor Rogers, Chapman followed his excellent defense by hitting a hard shot to Jonathan Schoop that led to a fielding error and a gave Chapman a spot on the bag at first. Olson followed with a strikeout and was followed by Profar—his first at-bat of the night. Getting behind in the count 0-2, Profar showed up BIG time. On a fast ball away, he had a strong single between third and short; Chapman pushed the envelope and went to third and Profar pushed second but his left arm was pulled off the bag by the defensive leg blocking the way and his body moving forward. Initially called safe, this call was reversed on the challenge. It was aggressive and a strong move by Profar who just was in the wrong position for the fielders stance. Finally, with two outs and Chapman on third, Mark Canha stepped in to face Rogers. On a 1-2 count, Canha went down swinging to end the game with a final score of 3-4 after 4 hours and 40 minutes of play.

Winning Pitcher: Parker

Save: Rogers

Loss: Treinen