Over the course of six months, every baseball team will play a few stinkers, and the Oakland A’s had one of theirs on Monday night.
Everything was not quite good enough in a 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, opening a three-game series at the Coliseum. The frustrating evening was capped with five of the A’s final six batters striking out.
On the mound, it seemed like Frankie Montas should have had a pretty good game. He struck out 11 of his 27 batters, and he should have had two more Ks but got squeezed hard by the umpire’s stingy strike zone. Seattle only hit the ball meaningfully hard against him four times. And yet somehow, he exited the game trailing 4-1.
In the 1st inning, one of the missed calls came back to hurt Montas. The leadoff batter got a 3-2 pitch perfectly placed at the bottom of the zone but it was ignored for Ball 4, and the next batter doubled him in. Indeed, there simply wasn’t a low strike tonight, for either club, as we saw a new and different version of a terrible human strike zone, which has now become a nightly occurrence in MLB.
In the 3rd inning, it was a bloop and a blast. A weak grounder found a hole for a single, and then Montas challenged Kyle Lewis with a high fastball and didn’t get it past him. The outfielders didn’t even bother moving as the ball sailed 425 feet into the stands.
Montas lost another bet on a high fastball to Jarred Kelenic in the 5th inning, but this time nobody was on base so it was only a solo homer.
- Montas: 6 ip, 4 runs, 11 Ks, 3 BB, 2 HR, 6 hits, 101 pitches, 94.7 mph EV
On one hand, this could just as easily have been a quality line with three runs, 12 Ks, and two walks, if not for that awful missed call in the 1st inning. But even then, it’s tough to complain too much when the starter allows two homers, as there are lots of ways that can go wrong. There are many different routes toward six innings with four runs, and in this case Montas was in control and missing bats like crazy (21 whiffs) but was haunted by a couple big mistakes.
On the other side of the ball, Yusei Kikuchi and the Mariners didn’t make quite as many mistakes, and the A’s didn’t enjoy quite as fortunate of sequencing. Mark Canha broke through with a homer in the 3rd inning, but nobody was on base for it.
Beyond Canha’s dinger, Oakland put a few stray runners on base here and there, but through seven innings they never formed anything resembling a rally.
In the 8th, they finally got their chance to break through against Seattle’s bullpen. A pair of pinch-hitters provided the spark, as Tony Kemp drew a leadoff walk and Seth Brown doubled him in. Brown’s 107.6 mph blast was nearly a homer, traveling 400 feet and bouncing off the top of the CF wall, but with nobody out they A’s would have plenty of chances to bring him around.
Canha followed with a walk, and suddenly the tying run was on base, with the star hitters coming up in a prime opportunity. But Chad Pinder struck out swinging. And Ramon Laureano struck out swinging. And Matt Olson struck out swinging.
They had one more chance in the 9th. First a popout. Then Matt Chapman struck out swinging. Then Sean Murphy struck out swinging. There was no joy in Oakland, because basically everybody on the A’s struck out.
Angels in the bullpen
One small bright side came in the bullpen, where the mopup crew got back on track after weirdly being placed in a save situation the previous day. Both of tonight’s relievers made their names as members of the Angels before finding their way to Oakland this year.
First up was Cam Bedrosian, making his A’s debut after a brief stint with the Reds in April. The right-hander breezed through two scoreless innings, issuing one walk but otherwise retiring six of the seven batters he faced, only one of them on a particularly loud out.
Next was Deolis Guerra, who was knocked around by the Astros and Angels in his last two appearances but needed only six pitches for a perfect 9th inning tonight, with a groundout and two weak flies.
On the defensive side, the highlight belonged to Chad Pinder. He does his best glovework in the outfield, and he’s seeing more time in the infield this year and offered a sparkling effort.
With all due respect, that ball would go Pasta Diving Lowrie.
Swing and a miss
It’s not news that the A’s strike out too much. This is what the downside of that flaw looks like, needing just one or two more big hits in the crucial moment but not making enough contact to find them. These same hitters come through quite often as well! But the lineup could still use some more balance and consistency, and fortunately there are four months left to work on that.