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Game #61: A’s stumble in mountain finale

A couple hops go the other way at Coors Field in 3-1 defeat

Oakland Athletics v Colorado Rockies Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s didn’t play badly on Sunday, but they didn’t have enough hops go their way at Coors Field to complete a sweep in the mountains.

The A’s lineup reached base enough and notched a pair of hits with runners in scoring position but only got one run for their efforts, while the pitching staff was solid but got out-dueled by the Colorado Rockies in a 3-1 defeat. Oakland snaps a four-game winning streak, but still wins the road series.

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

Unlike the previous two games, this time the Rockies struck first on the scoreboard. But by the end of the afternoon, the A’s pitching staff had limited the opponent to just three runs in a day game at Coors Field with a rookie starter on the mound. Not bad!

That rookie was James Kaprielian, looking to bounce back from his first non-excellent start in the majors. He was a bit wild, which may or may not be partly attributable to his first game at high elevation, and it felt like he put in 10 innings of work to complete five frames. But he stopped the Rockies from building their baserunners into rallies, and in the 4th inning he loaded the bases with nobody out but limited the damage to just one run on a sac fly.

  • Kaprielian: 5 ip, 2 runs, 6 Ks, 3 BB, 5 hits, 90 pitches, 95.7 mph EV

Considering the venue, and his fair share of hard contact, that’s a solid final line for the right-hander. One trait that stands out about Kaprielian so far is that he doesn’t wilt under pressure, and when the opponent threatens he can bear down and get out of it rather than letting it snowball into an avalanche.

In the National League stadium, Kaprielian also got his first chance to bat in the majors. He struck out his first time, but then he delivered a perfect sacrifice bunt in his second trip.

Mix in a bit of pitcher defense.

Despite the loss, there was plenty to like about the rookie’s outing.

The bullpen mostly held serve the rest of the way. Sergio Romo and Jake Diekman tossed a scoreless inning apiece, and Yusmeiro Petit was shaky but allowed only one run.

Three runs at Coors? You’ll take it. Up to the lineup to clear that reasonable bar.

Stumble before the summit

The A’s did enough hitting to score three runs, and even enough clutch hitting, but it wasn’t their day at the plate.

Oakland got a runner into scoring position in each of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, but couldn’t bring them around. In the 6th they came through, but the reward wasn’t quite what it could have been. Tony Kemp doubled, and then Sean Murphy drilled the ball with a 106 mph exit velocity and a projected distance of 408 feet. It could easily have been a game-tying homer, but today in the extra-deep alley at Coors it bounced high off the wall for merely an RBI double. Murphy was later stranded.

In the 7th, Elvis Andrus lined a double, one of two hits and three good pieces of contact he made today as he continues to heat up at the plate. Mitch Moreland came in to pinch-hit and laced one up the middle, which went wrong then right then wrong.

It could have just been a clean RBI single, which would have tied the game at the time. But the shortstop made a great diving play to snare it! But then his throw sailed wide and went past the first baseman! But then the ball caromed right back toward the diamond so Andrus couldn’t score!

If the hit goes through, it’s tied. If the errant throw goes into the dugout or just generally bounces around in foul territory for a moment, then it’s tied. But instead it went exactly like this, and with a literal stumble Andrus had to hold up at third. The next two batters struck out and the A’s got nothing out of the rally.

They had eight hits, three of them doubles, and they cleared 100 mph exit velocity a half-dozen times. They added a walk and reached on an error, and Andrus stole a base. They only went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, but you’d still expect that performance to yield more than one run. They did their share of striking out when simple contact would have been productive (11 Ks total), but there was also some rotten luck involved.

Series win

Oakland won the first two games of this series comfortably, and then lost a close finale that could have gone either way. When the reverse was true, with the A’s losing blowouts and winning only narrow victories, it was a point of criticism.

They lost today but didn’t play badly, just not quite well enough to steal one on a sleepy afternoon. Their rookie starter showed guts, and their lineup wasn’t as silent as the final score suggests. A sweep would have been nice, but a series win will work.