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Game #72: A’s finally slowed down by Yankees

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Bullpen has a rare blown save

MLB: Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s are the hottest team in the majors right now, but no baseball team wins every day.

The A’s finally met their match on Saturday, falling 7-5 to the New York Yankees in a hard-fought affair. The loss snaps a seven-game win streak for Oakland, and evens their series at Yankee Stadium ahead of tomorrow’s rubber match.

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

While the result didn’t go the A’s way, they did plenty to get excited about. They led 4-2 after six innings, but the exhausted bullpen finally blinked and let New York charge back. Still, facing a three-run deficit in the top of the 9th, the green-and-gold never gave up, rallying to bring the go-ahead run to the plate before succumbing. The game ended with an epic matchup in which Aroldis Chapman struck out Matt Chapman.

Early lead

Midway through the day, it appeared the A’s might be cruising to another victory. It only took two batters into the game to score their first run, on a homer by Tony Kemp. The ball only went 353 feet, but that’s enough in Yankee Stadium’s notoriously short RF It was deja vu for Kemp, as he hit a nearly identical 353-foot homer last night, about 15 hours prior.

That hit would not have cleared the wall at any other MLB stadium, per Yankees insider Brian Hoch. Only in the Bronx, where a fly ball is a home run.

Kemp followed up that dinger with some defense in the bottom of the 1st.

The A’s added another run in the 4th, on a solo homer by Chapman.

The 5th inning brought another rally. The A’s loaded the bases with nobody out, and Matt Olson poked a single the other way to drive two of them home.

That’s something we’re growing accustomed to seeing from the slugger, as part of his huge step forward this season has included using the whole field more often — especially helpful when the opponent employs a heavy defensive shift, as they did on this play, giving him almost the entire left side of the infield wide open. All Olson needed to do in order to earn two RBI was hit anything to the left side, and when the pitcher gave him an outside offering he wasted no time shooting it toward that hole.

Unfortunately Oakland didn’t get anything more from that rally, and the Yankees refused to go away quietly.

Quality Hound

While the A’s lineup was building an early lead, Chris Bassitt was pitching another quality start. The right-hander wasn’t perfect but worked around most of New York’s baserunners, letting through one in the 4th inning and then serving up a solo homer in the 6th.

  • Bassitt: 6 ip, 2 runs, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 6 hits, 90 pitches, 87.9 mph EV

That’s his ninth quality outing in 15 tries, and he just missed a couple more by an out or two. He’s allowed more than two runs only four times this year, and never more than four in a game. Ace.

After six innings, Oakland led 4-2. But there were still three more frames to go.

Blown save

The A’s have a good trio in the back of their bullpen, but the rest of the relief corps has been inconsistent this year. The top setup crew can’t work every day, and all three of them pitched the previous night. Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino were unavailable, which meant somebody else would need to step up with a two-run lead at Yankee Stadium.

The 7th inning went to Burch Smith, and he got knocked around. A couple sharp hits produced a run, and Yusmeiro Petit was called to escape the jam, just 18 hours after recording four outs in last night’s game. Even that didn’t work, as New York doinked another single to tie the score and blow the save.

In the 8th, Jesús Luzardo tried his hand, and that didn’t go well either. The lefty has experienced dinger problems since moving to the bullpen and that continued tonight, with a solo homer to give the Yankees the lead. A couple walks and a sac bunt put a pair in scoring position, bringing Sergio Romo into the game, but Romo didn’t have the answer either as a single drove home both runners. Suddenly the 4-2 lead had become a 7-4 deficit.

The A’s didn’t give up. In the top of the 9th a walk and a lucky infield single brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Ramon Laureano, and he singled for an RBI. It ain’t over!

The go-ahead run came up, in the form of a Chapman vs. Chapman matchup. Two on, two out, down by two, but Aroldis got the better of Matt with three straight fastball of 101, 101, and 103 mph.

Missed it by that much.

Still mostly hot

The A’s got good starting pitching today, and they didn’t make any defensive errors. Their lineup hit a pair of dingers, had a clutch hit with the bases loaded, and put together a run-scoring rally in the 9th. They brought the winning run to the plate despite entering the frame down three.

All that went wrong is the bullpen, and that’ll happen sometimes. Everybody blows a few saves, which the A’s haven’t done too often this year, and the big picture is that the rest of the roster stayed hot. But that said, this does still reveal the most obvious and significant weakness to be addressed over the next month, which is finding some reliable help in the late innings behind Petit, Diekman, and Trivino.

Maybe that means one of the current arms getting hot, or a prospect coming up, or Trevor Rosenthal and J.B. Wendelken getting healthy, or most likely at least one trade in July. But the problem today wasn’t so much that the save was blown, rather that the high-leverage situations needed to be given to relievers whose ERAs are now 5.75, 6.87, and 5.24 due to a lack of late-inning depth. That’s an issue, but fortunately it can be a fixable one.