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Game #33: A’s pitching implodes in loss to Marcus Semien’s Blue Jays

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That escalated quickly

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s looked exactly like a team playing for the 14th straight day on Thursday. The ability was there and they hung in for half the afternoon, but then it all fell apart.

The result was 10-4 blowout loss at the hands of Toronto Blue Jays, completing a four-game series split between the two contenders at the Coliseum.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

Through three innings, the A’s had a 4-3 lead, but it was apparent that the score wouldn’t finish there.

Oakland starter Mike Fiers was playing with matches all day. His first two batters hit sharp singles but he wriggled out of the jam, finishing with a beautiful curveball for a called strikeout. The 2nd inning began with another hit, and another escape. The 3rd opened with two more runners reaching base, including a leadoff double by Marcus Semien, and it looked like Fiers might pull it off yet again, as he fanned Vladimir Guerrero Jr right as catcher Sean Murphy picked the runner off first.

But the magic finally ended. The next man walked, and Randal Grichuk demolished a three-run homer.

It happened again in the 4th. A leadoff single, and then No. 9 batter Danny Jansen thumped another homer. Fiers was pulled before the end of the inning.

  • Fiers: 3⅓ ip, 5 runs, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 2 HR, 9 hits, 69 pitches, 90.7 mph EV

There’s no way around it, this was a bad outing by Fiers. If anything it’s impressive that he gutted it out into the 4th inning, considering how hard he was getting smashed throughout. It helped that the two strikeouts were of Guerrero (superstar) and Grichuk (5 RBI today), both in crucial spots. And that’s the backhanded compliment — Fiers actually made a bunch of big pitches at many of the times he needed to, and it still turned out like this, partly because he was in trouble for more or less every pitch so there was no margin for error.

3 innings of scoring

The A’s lineup was up to the early challenge, and they matched Toronto for the first few innings. Blue Jays starter Hyun-jin Ryu threw his second pitch of the game to Mark Canha and watched it sail over the wall for a leadoff homer. A lead for Oakland!

Toronto took over on Grichuk’s homer in the 3rd, but the A’s stormed back in the bottom of the inning thanks to hustle and clutch hitting.

With one out, Oakland had Tony Kemp on first base. The next batter hit a grounder that should have been a double play to end the frame, but Kemp had been running on the 3-2 pitch so he made it to second, extending the inning.

The A’s capitalized. Ramon Laureano walked, and Matt Olson hit a rocket into the RF corner. Olson drilled it so hard that it bounced over the wall, stopping Laureano at third base when he would otherwise have scored, but Murphy cleaned it up with a single to drive in both runners.

Unfortunately, that was it for the rest of the day. Six of the next seven A’s batters were retired, and the final innings were a parade of GIDPs. In the meantime, the Blue Jays kept piling on the scoreboard.

Whoops

The game was still close when Fiers departed, but Oakland’s bullpen wasn’t able to keep it that way long enough for another comeback.

The A’s have gotten solid long-man work from Deolis Guerra this year, and he got off to another good start today, retiring six of his first seven batters and keeping Toronto off the board. A couple runners reached base in the 6th and he almost got out of that too, inducing a comeback grounder that should have been an inning-ending double play, but his throw to second was in the dirt for an error and everybody was safe.

What should have been a scoreless frame turned into a four-run nightmare. Guerra was pulled and Sergio Romo came in, but Romo immediately allowed two big hits and then hurt his leg.

Earlier in the inning Romo had made a nice hustle play, backing up an errant throw from the outfield, but it required sliding awkwardly along the top of the dugout stairs to stop the ball from rolling inside.

The final three innings went to Reymin Guduan (two) and Adam Kolarek (one), and they at least made it through their mop-up duty without further drama. There was one final run, but at this point, with the game effectively decided, it was worth it — a solo homer by Semien, in the final at-bat of his homecoming trip to the Bay Area.

Cheers, Marcus!

Welp

The A’s weren’t very good today, though they did a handful of good things along the way. But as consolation, most of the opponent’s runs were scored against Oakland’s fifth starter and mop-up relief crew, and they blitzed last year’s third-place Cy Young finisher Ryu for a bunch of early runs. They earned their loss this afternoon, but odds are we’ll see much better ball from them most days.