Monday was everything we want to see more of from the Oakland A’s, except that it was the Chicago White Sox doing it.
The White Sox scored in five different innings despite recording only one extra-base hit, and their bullpen shortened the game with a barrage of strikeouts, leaving the A’s on the wrong end of a 5-2 decision at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Chicago didn’t rely on power, and they only went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. But they reached base 14 times, between 10 hits, three walks, and a HBP, and once aboard they forced more action by hustling and continuing to make contact. They never extended a rally long enough to score twice in an inning, but they still pieced together five runs.
In the 3rd inning, it was a pair of singles and a deep sac fly. In the 4th it was a two-out single, then a walk, then an RBI single. In the 5th it was a groundball single, a bunt misplayed by the A’s best defender, then a liner off the glove of that same elite defender for an RBI. In the 6th it was a single, a steal, a productive groundout, and a squeeze bunt. Their only extra-base hit came in the 8th, and it was a solo homer.
Most of those singles were well-hit, and Chicago also crushed a few loud outs, so the small-ball wasn’t for lack of quality contact. But on a night when none of their hits were finding gaps or walls, and when they never strung together more than three hits in one inning, they consistently made the extra play necessary to ensure they didn’t waste their scoring opportunities.
The A’s themselves have gotten better at this style of play lately, especially thanks to their newest trade acquisitions, but the Sox put on a clinic in what to strive for. Unfortunately, Oakland wasn’t able to rustle up enough of it tonight.
It started well enough, as the A’s struck first with a pair of runs in the 2nd. Matt Chapman homered, his fourth dinger in the last three games, though like all the others it was solo. The bottom of the lineup proceeded to load the bases with a HBP and two walks, and Mark Canha came through with an RBI single. But that was all they got, and while it was nice to see the rally produce more than zero, it was once again frustrating to see an inning that included a solo homer and three runners left on base — virtually any rearrangement in sequencing would have helped a lot.
Oakland never scored again. They scattered a few individual runners but weren’t able to create anything out of it like Chicago did.
They got close in the 8th inning. With Matt Olson on first base, Jed Lowrie hit a deep drive to right-center that one-hopped the wall for an automatic double. Olson probably could have scored if the ball had stayed in the park, so perhaps that’s a bit a of bad fortune. On the other hand, they now had second and third with one out, and their hottest hitter Chapman at the plate, and that should have still resulted in a run but instead Chapman struck out and so did the next batter. A flyout could have salvaged Olson’s run, or a single could have tied the game, but the White Sox made their own luck by not allowing contact at all.
In fact, Chicago’s bullpen recorded strikeouts for nine of their final 12 outs. Granted, it was a combination of high-profile stars in Michael Kopech, Craig Kimbrel, and Liam Hendriks, so matching that level of dominance isn’t necessarily a reasonable standard, but it’s sure an effective way to stop the opponent from mounting a late comeback.
As for the A’s pitching, Frankie Montas snapped his streak of six straight quality starts but he wasn’t bad. There was some hard contact but not too much, and he avoided long rallies, and he kept the ball in the park, and he missed a ton of bats. But the White Sox have a tough lineup and they were still able to scratch out enough against him.
- Montas: 5 ip, 3 runs, 6 Ks, 3 BB, 8 hits, 99 pitches, 89.4 mph EV
The biggest problem with that line is gifting Chicago three free passes, but tonight none of his walks came around to score. It was all the hits and sacrifices and hustle.
The most frustrating run was easily the one in the 5th. After a leadoff single, the Sox laid a bunt down the 3B line that would have gone foul but Chapman pounced for a chance at an out. However, he bobbled the ball and instead handed them a free baserunner. Later in the inning they drilled a 102 mph liner directly at him that he usually catches for a loud out, but this time it glanced off his glove and trickled into left field. If the two-time Platinum Glover completes just one of those two plays (or maybe even if he just lets the bunt go foul) then it’s a scoreless frame.
Also frustrating was seeing more damage done by an opponent’s random backup catcher out of the No. 9 spot of the lineup. Seby Zavala singled and scored in the 3rd, hit the RBI single in the 4th, and then delivered the RBI squeeze bunt in the 6th against Yusmeiro Petit. Reigning MVP Jose Abreu went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, but they couldn’t figure out Zavala. (The A’s got a hit and a walk out of their own random No. 9 batter, Vimael Machin, but without the same run-production effect.)
One bright spot came out of Oakland’s bullpen, as A.J. Puk fired another scoreless frame with two more strikeouts and consistent 96 mph velocity. Puk has pitched four times since being called up from the minors, for a scoreless inning each time.
Try again tomorrow
The A’s did some stuff well, but the White Sox played a better game. They got on base more, they forced more plays to earn their brief rallies, and their bullpen locked down the final innings. But Oakland at its best is capable of doing everything Chicago pulled off today, so go flip that script tomorrow.