The Oakland A’s have been put through an intense schedule lately, and it showed Tuesday night.
The A’s had their chances but couldn’t quite climb to the peak in a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies, marking their third defeat by the Rockies in three tries this year and their sixth straight dating back to 2018.
After missing a week of play to multiple different postponements around the beginning of September, the A’s have hustled hard to make up for the lost time. Starting last Tuesday they played 10 games in seven days thanks to three makeup doubleheaders, and half of those contests came in just the last three days from Sat-Mon. Their matchup in Colorado marked their third city in three days, after using a scheduled off-day Monday to make a pit-stop in Seattle for a twin-bill.
On top of all the travel and extra games, Monday’s doubleheader against the Mariners featured smoke from nearby wildfires filling the air so thickly that it was visible on the telecast and registered as “very unhealthy” on the Air Quality Index scale. After playing five hours in those absurd conditions, they flew up to the mountains to take the field in the thin air of mile-high elevation, and with no off-day to adjust to the uniquest environment in the league. It’s hard enough to breathe up there when you haven’t spent the previous day chain-smoking tainted oxygen at sea level.
Add it all up, and you can understand why a team might go 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and make an uncharacteristic defensive error.
“We had some guys that can feel some phlegm in their throats,” said second baseman Tony Kemp, via insider Martin Gallegos. “Those conditions were not the best. There were some guys feeling stuff in their bodies today.”
Considering all that context, it’s impressive that the A’s played as well as they did. They didn’t get dominated, but rather kept themselves in the game from start to finish and set up plenty of opportunities that they couldn’t quite cash in on.
The first tantalizing rally came right away in the 1st inning. The first two batters singled to open the game, but then the heart of the order each went down on weak contact to strand them.
Oakland did come through once, in the 2nd inning. Newcomer Jake Lamb led off with a walk, and then hustled to third base on a single by Ramon Laureano. Two batters later, Tony Kemp did exactly what the A’s needed by simply making contact with a runner on third and one out, lofting a sac fly to drive him home. It was exactly the kind of situational hitting we’d like to see more of from the A’s, although even that lone run came dripping with the irony of someone sacrificing themselves for a Lamb.
But that was all they could muster the rest of the night. In the 4th and 5th they knocked early doubles, courtesy of Lamb and Kemp, respectively, but each time they were stranded. Laureano led off the 7th with a single but was eliminated in a double play. A’s fans were surprised to be reminded that there are also 8th and 9th innings in MLB games, but there wasn’t much to see as Oakland went down in order in the final two frames.
In the end, Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela notched his first career complete game, needing just 109 pitches to go the distance. His peripheral stats are shaky due to his low-strikeout, pitch-to-contact ways, but he’s been effective all year and this was the second time he’s beaten the A’s.
It wasn’t quite a shutout due to the run in the 2nd, but that single tally wasn’t enough to hold up all night. As usual, Sean Manaea was untouchable the first time through the lineup, allowing just one double that was later stranded. He kept rolling along until the 5th, when Colorado finally broke through.
The inning began with an infield single, but it was made worse by a rare disconnect between shortstop Marcus Semien and first baseman Matt Olson. Semien had to range far to his right to collect the ball, and he didn’t quite get his footwork correct on the throw, skipping it past Olson’s right side. It’s a play Semien normally makes with robotic precision (unless Matt Chapman cuts in front and makes it himself), and a tough pick that Olson probably gets at least some of the time, but on this night it resulted in a runner on third base.
Having said all that, the runner may have at least beaten out the hit either way, and the next at-bat rendered the potentially costly error moot. Elias Diaz put a charge in one and lined it over the wall in the left field corner, for not only his first homer of the year but the first dinger by any Rockies catcher in 2020. It also gave Colorado a 2-1 lead, which they never relinquished.
Just for good measure, though, the Rockies added one more for insurance in the 6th. They got it exactly as the A’s had done themselves in the 2nd — two singles to lead off, a groundball force at second base, and then a sac fly to plate the runner from third.
Despite the loss, it was still another strong start by Manaea. The lefty efficiently chewed through nearly six innings, missed a ton of bats (14.6% of his pitches), and racked up seven strikeouts to just one walk, all while minimizing hard contact. On many days, he would have earned a win for this performance.
Manaea: 5⅔ ip, 3 runs, 7 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 7 hits, 89 pitches (63 strikes)
The first time through the lineup, opponents are 12-for-81 against Manaea (.148), with three-extra base hits, no walks, and 22 strikeouts. And one home run by Shin-Soo Choo.
A shoutout also must go to Lamb. He was 5-for-43 with one double when the D’Backs cut him, but in two games in green and gold so far he’s 3-for-7 with a homer, two doubles, and a walk, plus three runs scored. On Tuesday, the rally he sparked resulted in the team’s only run, which he himself scored. He already has more total bases in two days than he did in 18 games for Arizona, and three times as many extra-base hits.
And now, for the first time since Saturday night, the A’s get to go to bed and wake up in the same city and time zone they were in the day before. Then they’ll play one more game against the Rockies, and finally get an off-day to fly home and rest up for the final push of the regular season. And hopefully some proper air.