One hallmark of a good team is that they don’t let losing streaks go on too long and snowball into larger slumps.
The Oakland A’s did just that on Wednesday, snapping a three-game skid with a 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners and avoiding a sweep at home at the hands of a division rival. Even better, the stopper turned out to be a rookie pitcher, who showed a lot of promise as he carried the team back into the win column.
A’s fans waited a long time to see James Kaprielian make it to the majors, ever since he was acquired in 2017 as part of the Sonny Gray trade. The former top prospect is finally in Oakland, and he hasn’t disappointed. His first two outings were encouraging and the club won both games, but today he made a statement in his third MLB start.
The rookie kept the Mariners off the board for seven innings. There were a couple loud outs early on, but he retired his first eight batters and didn’t allow a hit until the 4th. Seattle put together a rally after that hit but Kaprielian worked out of it, and he finished his outing by retiring 10 straight batters.
The turning point came in the 4th inning. The A’s had built an early 3-0 lead, but the Mariners doinked a leadoff single to break Kaprielian’s spell over them. A sharper single followed, and with two outs the right-hander issued a walk to load the bases. That drew a mound visit and action in the bullpen, and the pressure was on for Kaprielian. He responded admirably, needing only one pitch to induce a routine groundout and escape the jam unscathed. Nails.
In the bottom of the 4th, Oakland’s lineup put a few more runs on the board, and Kaprielian settled down and cruised from there. The seven frames are the deepest he’s worked into a game since April of 2016 when he was in High-A ball in the minors.
- Kaprielian: 7 ip, 0 runs, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 2 hits, 94 pitches, 88.8 mph EV
He didn’t miss a lot of bats but he did paint some corners, and when Seattle hit the ball it usually wasn’t hard. He should have had one more strikeout but was robbed of Strike 3 by an awful missed call (the batter still got out later).
Perhaps the A’s got something out of the Sonny trade after all?
The A’s lineup scored only five runs total in their first two games against the Mariners, though part of the reason was some spectacular defense by Seattle last night. Today they got back on track.
They got started right away. A pair of walks set the stage in the 1st inning, and then two pieces of contact helped them cash in on the opportunity. Seth Brown drilled a double that one-hopped the wall in left field.
Unfortunately the bounce out of play prevented the second runner from scoring, but Matt Chapman took care of it with a sac fly. It doesn’t go down as a hit with runners in scoring position, but it brought home a run all the same.
Chappy's sac fly pads the A's early lead pic.twitter.com/Ol8ui0qZ5c— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 26, 2021
Oakland added another run in the 3rd, on a towering solo homer by Matt Olson. With its 43-degree launch angle it would likely have stayed in the park during a night game, but in the afternoon sun it sailed just far enough to clear the wall.
The A’s carried that lead into the 4th inning, which is when Kaprielian had his big moment falling into and climbing out of trouble. In the bottom of the frame, his teammates responded by tacking on some insurance.
The rally began quietly, with a one-out single by Elvis Andrus. The next batter was hit by a pitch, and then a walk, and suddenly the bases were loaded. This was a must-score opportunity, a chance to put the other team away while they’re on the ropes and push the game out of reach, the kind that you regret missing when you lose 4-3 like last night.
Oakland didn’t miss this time. Olson made sharp contact and settled for a sac fly, enough that they at least got something out of it. Then Ramon Laureano battled through a 10-pitch at-bat and muscled a bloop into no-man’s land in shallow left, bringing home another. And Brown squirted a soft single up the middle to plate another. Mission accomplished, as the three-run lead had ballooned to six, thanks to rally that began with mostly free passes and was capped by simply not striking out.
Those insurance runs ended up mattering. The setup crew came out of the bullpen to seal the final two innings, and it turned into more of an adventure than expected. Yusmeiro Petit had an off-night, as four of his six batters notched hits, and three came around to score.
That threat brought Jake Diekman into the game, and he managed to finish the 8th. But in the 9th he put two more runners on base, and the tying run came to the plate in the form of star rookie Jarred Kelenic. He popped out to end it.
Whew. That was a scarier conclusion than it should have been after the first seven innings, but they got the job done.
Nothing like a bit of sunlight to brighten things back up. The A’s dropped three winnable games in a row to division rivals, but they came out this afternoon and got one back. They got a great performance from a new hope in the rotation, and the lineup hit a homer and went 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position, or 5-for-8 if you count sac flies. That’s the team we’re hoping to see more of this summer.