The losing streak is finally over!
The Oakland A’s snapped a six-game skid on Saturday, beating the New York Yankees 3-2 at the Coliseum. The A’s got a gem from their starting rotation, their lineup had a hit with runners in scoring position and made some chaos on the basepaths, and their bullpen survived a bit of late drama in the 9th inning to lock in a desperately needed win.
One victory doesn’t erase the damage done in the standings over the past two weeks, as Oakland entered this afternoon having lost 10 of their previous 12 games including their last six straight. But every journey begins with a single step, and getting back into the win column for the first time in a week is a welcome sight.
Leading the charge was starting pitcher Frankie Montas, who dominated the Yankees for seven scoreless innings. New York never even got to third base against him, and only reached second base once. At one point he retired 15 straight batters.
- Montas: 7 ip, 0 runs, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits, 98 pitches, 83.4 mph EV
The A’s needed a Stopper on the mound, and Montas stepped up. It’s the second straight start that he’s limited the opponent to two hits in seven shutout frames, after doing so to the Giants last time out. It’s also his eighth quality start in his last nine tries, with a 2.06 ERA during that span.
two-hit wonder— Oakland A's (@Athletics) August 28, 2021
7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 K pic.twitter.com/KmDn7qpllS
Not only did Frankie come through, he did it against the hottest team in the majors. The Yankees were averaging 5.8 runs per game during their 13-game winning streak, which ended today.
Kempin ain’t easy
While Montas was spinning zeroes, Oakland’s lineup was scratching out just enough against the Yankees thanks largely to Tony Kemp.
In the 2nd inning, the first batter just missed a homer, and the second batter nearly doubled down the line only to see it go foul. But with two outs, Chad Pinder doubled, and Sean Murphy walked, and a rally brewed. Up next was Kemp, batting ninth in the order today, and he poked a single up the middle to drive home Pinder. A hit with a runner in scoring position!
But Kemp wasn’t done. Two pitches later, he broke for second base at just the right moment to draw a balk from the pitcher, allowing both runners to move up. Kemp was awarded second, and Murphy got to trot home for a run.
Nestor Cortes balked in the A's second run pic.twitter.com/U2LedS3hqP— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 28, 2021
That’s one of the most obvious balk calls I’ve ever seen, with the lefty pitcher’s leg so clearly committing to the plate that he briefly lost his balance turning to throw to first. Kemp didn’t go early and get lucky, but rather the pitcher made a mistake shifting course so late to go after him. As a reward for his hustle, Kemp not only got his base, but also forced a miscue from the opponent to create another run for his team — and on the next pitch a popout ended the inning, so his timing couldn’t have been better.
Kemp played some defense too, at second base today.
And another! “That’s like The Matrix out there,” said Bip Roberts on the NBCS broadcast.
Tony Kemp having himself quite an afternoon pic.twitter.com/F71p2fbPE5— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 28, 2021
With the early lead in hand, the A’s set out to add some insurance. They had a chance in the 3rd inning but it was dashed by a botched replay review, which itself was preceded by a missed call that favored Oakland, which New York couldn’t challenge because they’d already been wrong on a challenge earlier in the day. It was a whole thing, and the end result was A’s manager Bob Melvin was ejected. This series has been quite an Ump Show, with one manager tossed Thursday for arguing from the dugout, then a weird glove thing last night, then the other skipper thrown out today.
In the 4th they did get on the board again, on a solo homer by Matt Chapman. That’s Chapman’s seventh long ball in his past dozen games.
Solo shots have been a frustrating recent trend for Oakland, as 20 of their last 21 homers have come with nobody on base. But today the single run was enough, as Chapman’s dinger proved to be the decider.
The A’s threatened a couple more times, but didn’t score again. Starling Marte got himself into scoring position in the 5th, and Kemp hit a leadoff double in the 7th, but they were both stranded. Three runs were going to have to be enough.
Oakland’s bullpen had a tough week. During the six-game losing streak, they blew three saves and a 9th-inning tie. Thanks to Montas’ heavy lifting this afternoon, they only needed to hold on for two innings, with a three-run cushion.
In the 8th it was Andrew Chafin, and he navigated around a leadoff single to deliver a scoreless frame. But the 9th inning brought a new face and some familiar drama.
For the first time this year, it was Sergio Romo who came in for the save. Between the recent struggles of closer Lou Trivino, and Romo’s own wealth of closing experience, and his 11-for-13 success rate in hold situations this summer, and his 0.78 ERA since late-May (or 1.44 since late-April), something new was worth a try and Romo was an obvious candidate to get a turn in the 9th at some point.
Bob Melvin said of using Sergio Romo for the save situation today: "We'll probably give Lou (Trivino) a little bit of a break." He added late-innings plan can be fluid.— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) August 28, 2021
Of course, nothing comes easily for the A’s right now. The first batter lined a loud out, and the second batter made up for it with a bloop single. Then Aaron Judge came up and pounded a hanging slider over the wall, 406 feet. The 3-0 lead was down to 3-2, but it was still a lead, and Romo retired the next two batters to nail it down.
That’s Romo’s first save this season, and first in an A’s uniform. It wasn’t the cleanest in history, and he got away with another hanger to Giancarlo Stanton that was mercifully popped up, but he got the job done in the end.
The moral of this past week is that if you lead by three runs instead of just one run, then when you allow a two-run homer in the 9th inning you can still win the game.
Ray of sunlight
Oakland needed a win today and they got it, against the hottest team in the league, in precisely the kind of close game that they haven’t been able to seal lately. Can they build on it? It’ll take a lot more to climb back into this postseason race, but they’ve taken the first step.