This game was all Oakland A’s right up until it wasn’t.
The A’s appeared to be in complete control for seven innings on Saturday, but a few mistakes in the 8th gave the Minnesota Twins just enough of a chance to mount a late comeback. After Oakland won the first four meetings this year, the Twins finally got one with a 5-4 result.
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The offense looked sharp enough in the early going, against Minnesota starter and two-time All-Star Jose Berrios. They got started right away in the 1st inning, as Seth Brown doubled and Matt Olson smoked a 420-foot blast over the fence.
Another day, another Oly pic.twitter.com/FXkdV7VpFH— Oakland A's (@Athletics) May 15, 2021
They kept pushing in the 3rd inning, this time with some small-ball. A single, an errant pickoff throw, a productive groundout, and a single that landed just in front of an outfielder tacked another run on the board courtesy of a Ramon Laureano RBI.
In the 5th, Mark Canha launched a towering solo homer.
.— Oakland A's (@Athletics) May 15, 2021
According to Statcast, the ball went one million feet high into the air.
That was all they got for the day, but four runs off a star pitcher despite drawing no walks isn’t so bad. And anyway, with the way Oakland’s staff was pitching, it looked like it might be more than enough.
It wasn’t quite enough
Those four runs held up for most of the afternoon. A’s starter Cole Irvin put together another quality effort, bringing his total to eight earned runs over his last six starts combined, and this time he kept the Twins quiet into the 7th inning.
- Irvin: 6⅔ ip, 1 run, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 5 hits, 81 pitches, 91.9 mph EV
The lefty was efficient, only running five his batters to a two-ball count, and only taking a pair of batters to three balls (the two walks). The hits were mostly hard contact, but the outs weren’t, including nine on the ground and another half-dozen popups or skyouts.
A couple of those hits came in the 1st inning, including a double by Josh Donaldson, but Irvin limited that early rally to just one run. Minnesota didn’t even reach third base again until the 7th, but at that point they loaded the bags and Irvin was lifted for a reliever. Yusmeiro Petit came in and induced a popout into foul territory, but you have to see this one to appreciate it.
CHAPPY!? pic.twitter.com/PabYBWk4dT— Oakland A's (@Athletics) May 15, 2021
That’s a Coliseum Tarp Catch, except they weren’t playing at the Coliseum, this was Target Field. Chapman didn’t even realize the tarp was there at first, but still adjusted to make a clutch play and strand three runners. Here’s what Chapman said, per Alex Coffey of the Athletic:
“I surprised myself a bit on that catch. I thought I was gonna run out of room and I kind of forgot about the tarp. I learned a little more about the surroundings, so tomorrow if that play happens, I’ll have more awareness of where the tarp and netting is.”
Oakland found themselves in hot water again in the 8th, as the first two batters reached against Petit, but Chapman came through again by turning a line drive into a double play.
Add it to the @mattchap6 reel pic.twitter.com/8AEVWjC29l— Oakland A's (@Athletics) May 15, 2021
Unfortunately that wizardry wasn’t enough. The next batter walked, followed by a bloop single to drive home a run, and suddenly the go-ahead run was coming to the plate in the form of Miguel Sano.
Petit was lifted for Jake Diekman, and on the third pitch Sano walloped an opposite-field homer. A game that’d had an inevitable feel to it for the last hour had suddenly been turned on its head, and the Twins were celebrating.
There can always be second-guessing about personnel decisions by the manager, and which pitchers should have been in the game when. But when I look at this 8th inning, the biggest mistake I see is issuing two walks while you’re protecting a three-run lead. That included a leadoff walk to get the rally going, and another free pass immediately after the double play to breathe life back into the comeback attempt. When the opponent is struggling to score, don’t hand them the materials, make them earn the whole thing.
But I’ve got good news. Petit doesn’t usually allow walks, and Diekman doesn’t usually serve up homers. It’s a bummer that they did today, but it’s not something to worry about moving forward.
Shake it off
The A’s played a good game today. The lineup thumped, the defense put on a clinic, and their starter was sharp. Just a little whoopsie at the end, by a couple of players who are almost always excellent. A win would have been cooler, but the loss is nothing to get worked up about.
Just showing off at this point pic.twitter.com/JKvrnPGPMV— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 15, 2021