It was a heck of a win streak, but after more than two weeks of indulging on nothing but good times, it was time to pay the piper.
The Oakland A’s finally lost a game, for the first time since April 8, snapping a string of 13 straight victories. The final score was 8-1 at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, as the Baseball Gods who had been so charitable in recent days sent a Hays & Means Committee to collect a contribution.
The A’s lineup has been humming, averaging more than six runs per contest during the streak and piling up 10 between their first two wins in this series in Baltimore. But they finally met their match in John Means, who has quietly built an impressive track record with the rebuilding Orioles. The lefty was an All-Star in 2019 and entered today leading the AL in ERA, and Oakland was every bit as stymied as everyone else has been.
In the 4th inning, Ramon Laureano launched a solo homer, which at the time tied the score. That was all. Other than that dinger, the A’s never reached second base against Means, who worked into the 7th inning and scattered a single and three walks.
They got their chance against the bullpen, but didn’t find any more luck there as eight of the final nine batters were retired including four strikeouts. They did reach second base again, with two outs in the 9th! But never third base, much less home plate. Just one of those days, and it’s easier to write off after seeing them hit so well for so long.
On the other side of the ball, Jesús Luzardo was good but not quite sharp enough to keep up with Means. Through the first six innings this might even have been classified as a pitcher’s duel, and indeed Luzardo did finish with a quality start in defeat.
The problem was Austin Hays. In the 2nd inning, the Orioles left fielder got a fastball down the middle and deposited it over the fence for an early 1-0 lead. After Laureano tied it in the top of the 4th, Hays came up again, this time with a runner on base, and he cashed in with his second dinger of the day. Baltimore was back in front 3-1, and they never looked back.
- Luzardo: 6⅔ ip, 3 runs, 8 Ks, 2 BB, 2 HR, 7 hits, 101 pitches, 79.7 mph EV
Against eight of the Orioles, the southpaw dominated. Hays got him twice, but otherwise there were two hard grounders and nothing else. Even with Hays’ two rockets, both well into the triple-digits, everything else was soft enough to take the average exit velocity down under 80 mph. Without checking, that’s the lowest average EV that I remember seeing from an A’s starter during the streak, and he also fanned 29% of his batters. He even picked a runner off first base.
Jesús Luzardo, 96mph Paint. ✝️ ️ pic.twitter.com/n3n8rsWK3e— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 25, 2021
Mostly great, with a couple mistakes that cost him? Sounds like a 23-year-old starter in his first full season!
Bullpenalty and rounding error
As for the bullpen, it began promising! The good news came from Sergio Romo, who relieved Luzardo in the middle of one final jam in the 7th. With two on and two out, he retired his batter to strand everyone.
Then the bad news, as the wheels fell off in the 8th. Deolis Guerra has been effective as a mop-up man so far, with a 1.23 ERA on the books entering the game, but he got cooked today. His first batter homered, then he walked the bases loaded, and then he walked a fourth batter to force home a run, managing just two outs along the way.
Oakland turned to lefty Adam Kolarek to escape the jam, and for his part he did. On his second pitch he got exactly what he needed, a weak grounder directly at the shortstop, but Elvis Andrus clanked it off his glove for an error. Everyone was safe, a run scored as Hays crossed the plate again, and more importantly the inning continued, with righty slugger Trey Mancini coming up. The advantageous platoon matchup yielded dividends for the Orioles, as Mancini put a charge in a grounder for a two-run single.
I’ve been particularly forgiving of Kolarek’s shaky results so far, and that’s not changing. He came in 18 hours after his last appearance, in a situation where he should never have been needed in the first place, with the bases loaded and the top of the order coming up, and he threw two pitches and got his weak grounder. Everything after that is on Andrus, who is here primarily for his glove and needs to be more reliable on defense.
That disastrous five-run 8th inning ended any reasonable chance of a last-minute comeback to extend the dramatic streak, but hey, it was never going to last forever.
You can’t win ‘em all, but the A’s sure did their best to try. They still won this series in Baltimore, and now they’ll carry their momentum to Tampa Bay for a serious test against the defending AL champion Rays. What better place to surf a new wave than the coast of Florida?
A's lose 8-1. Their first loss since April 8. It was a closer game than the final score will indicate. Their Major League-best winning streak comes to an end at 13, which now stands as the third-longest in Oakland history.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) April 25, 2021