They almost pulled it off again, for the second game in a row.
After a thrilling comeback walk-off win on Friday night, the Oakland A’s entered the final frame on Saturday afternoon trailing by two runs but couldn’t quite catch the Cleveland Indians this time in a 3-2 defeat. They got close, putting the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on first base, but they needed one more clutch hit to seal the deal.
Both starting pitchers kept things pretty quiet. The A’s scored in the 1st inning, on back-to-back doubles by Matt Olson and Mitch Moreland, but wasted a few chances too.
Most frustrating was the 5th inning, as Oakland loaded the bases with nobody out and Elvis Andrus ripped a 103 mph grounder but directly into a glove for a double play. A foot to the side and it’s an RBI single, a foot to the other side and it’s a three-run double, but it went straight at the infielder and the A’s got nothing out of the rally. Andrus hit three triple-digit exit velocities today and none fell for hits.
Meanwhile, Frankie Montas pitched six innings and five of them were scoreless. But two runs came home in the top of the 5th, on a quick rally that included only two hits. That was enough to earn him the loss, especially after Oakland missed their shot with the bases loaded a few minutes later in the bottom of the frame.
- Montas: 6 ip, 2 runs, 7 Ks, 1 BB, 6 hits, 94 pitches, 91.9 mph EV
That’s another quality start. He might have gotten a bit fortunate, as the RBI double he allowed in the 5th appeared to be kept in the park by the wind instead of going over for a three-run homer, but even with that it was a solid day for the right-hander.
The bullpen mostly held serve but did allow one more run, and that ended up making the difference in the game. Reliever J.B. Wendelken served up a dinger to Franmil Reyes that went through a window and into a luxury suite above center field.
DUDE Franmil Reyes just hit one into the luxury box pic.twitter.com/58tuNH6Dq7— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 17, 2021
With that, the A’s entered the 9th inning trailing 3-1, looking for a repeat of last night’s magic. They led off with a walk and then ripped a single to put the tying runs on base, bringing up none other than Jed Lowrie to the plate. Lowrie had hit the walk-off homer on Friday, less than 24 hours prior, but this time he got under it and flew out.
Oakland kept hitting the ball hard after that, with a flyout to the warning track to drive home one run, and then a couple sharp grounders including one for a lucky infield single. But they needed one more hit and couldn’t find it.
A play you don’t see every day: Cleveland had a runner hit by his own teammate’s ground ball, which retires the runner but still counts as a hit for the batter. In this case the unusual out ended the 3rd inning.
In the next inning, Montas technically induced a swing-and-miss twice on the same swing — the batter missed hitting the ball, then missed hitting Montas when the bat slipped out of his hands.
Frankie Montas made Harold Ramirez throw his bat pic.twitter.com/xXS0qJjNnh— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 17, 2021
And new reliever Sam Moll made his 2021 debut! This launches the lefty’s second career stint as a member of the A’s. He faced four batters and allowed just a walk in a scoreless 9th inning.
Southpaw Sam Moll makes his A's debut pic.twitter.com/T5UaFCZofM— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 17, 2021
And as always, Kempin’ ain’t easy.
Tony Kemp web gems are still a thing pic.twitter.com/Se5Z5WqNuW— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 17, 2021
Not so fun fact: With the bases loaded, the A’s have the second-worst OPS in the majors (.564), even though they rarely strike out in such situations (18.8%).
Last night, both teams’ starters allowed three runs, and they each got there with a solo homer and another rally. Then each bullpen gave up one homer apiece, but Oakland’s late dinger was slightly bigger so they won.
Today, both starters tiptoed around trouble but kept the opponent in check except for one scoring rally apiece, and then each bullpen allowed exactly one run. But Cleveland’s early rally went one batter longer so they won.
Those are the kinds of margins we’re working with here, on almost a daily basis, which is why I’m having a hard time getting worked up about any individual loss. The A’s are in every single game they play, and when they lose it’s rarely by much. We know they’re capable of winning close games at a normal rate and that a monthlong slump in this regard is meaningless in terms of future analysis, and if you don’t already know that then now you do because I’m telling you.
If you think there’s a talent difference between last night’s win and today’s loss, then you’re inventing it in your head. It was virtually exactly the same game, but the coin landed tails instead of heads this time.
After winning three games in a row, Oakland came up short in this one. They earned their loss and it counts in the standings. But if you let it ruin your Saturday out of fear that they just aren’t good enough to win close games or something silly, then that’s on you. If the 105 mph exit velocity grounder in the video below goes another foot to the side, the A’s tie it up and probably go on to win.