The Oakland A’s lineup produced on Wednesday, but this time their pitching faltered instead.
The A’s scored six runs, but that wasn’t quite enough tonight in an 8-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The defeat snaps a three-game winning streak.
Oakland took a couple of early leads in the 1st and 4th innings, but each time Detroit answered back to tie it up. The A’s jumped on top again with three runs in the 5th but then went quiet, while the Tigers scored in each of the 5th through 8th innings to take control.
This was a tough way to begin September, as Oakland had the upper hand against a sub-.500 opponent but couldn’t close the deal. Their starter didn’t make it through five innings, and three different relievers were charged with runs while another one allowed an inherited runner to score. On the bright side, their lineup racked up 10 hits and went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position, a positive sign for the offense after some August struggles.
For five innings, the A’s lineup looked great, or at least the top half of it did.
In the 1st, Josh Harrison led off the game with a single, then moved to third on a pickoff-error, then scored on a sac fly by Matt Olson.
Olson gives the A's an early 1-0 lead after Harrison went 1st to 3rd on a bad pickoff pic.twitter.com/CJMSQGAEnF— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) September 1, 2021
Leading off the 4th, Starling Marte didn’t bother setting the table and just created a run all by himself with a solo homer.
After that dinger, Olson walked and Jed Lowrie doubled him home.
Jed drills a deep RBI double pic.twitter.com/gn2DzqcQ63— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) September 2, 2021
The same suspects led the way in the 5th. Harrison and Marte singled, and Olson doubled them in.
Then Lowrie doubled in Olson.
Jed Lowrie hit another RBI double, folks pic.twitter.com/AzOGTLZAcp— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) September 2, 2021
In total that’s 3 RBI for Olson, and a pair of RBI doubles for Lowrie. All six runs were scored by Harrison, Marte, and Olson, two apiece.
Those rallies gave the A’s a 6-3 lead, but then the faucet turned off. From the 6th inning on, 12 of their final 13 batters were retired, with just a stray double by Harrison mixed in. All the while, the Tigers were mounting their comeback.
For the second straight day, Oakland’s starter didn’t make it out of the 5th inning.
Tonight it was James Kaprielian, who kept things reasonably quiet for three frames but allowed homers in the 4th and 5th. The first of those dingers was by Miguel Cabrera, the 502nd of his legendary career.
- Kaprielian: 4+ ip, 4 runs, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 2 HR, 4 hits, 83 pitches, 91.9 mph EV
It wasn’t a full-on disaster, but the right-hander wasn’t his sharpest, with a few too many mistakes between the walks and homers. The early hook meant the bullpen had to work overtime again, but unlike last night they weren’t able hold on to the precarious lead.
After Kaprielian exited with the A’s up 6-4, Yusmeiro Petit came in and ate two full innings, but he allowed a solo homer along the way to narrow it to 6-5.
In the 7th, lefty A.J. Puk got the call in a setup role. However, the Tigers pounced on the rookie, with a single, walk, and single to tie the score and blow the save. Puk was lifted for Jake Diekman, who allowed one more single to give Detroit the lead.
The 8th inning brought another rookie pitcher, Daulton Jefferies, who almost navigated around a leadoff double but ultimately allowed it to score for an insurance run.
The last two days represent peculiar bullpen usage. Last night Oakland warmed up top setup man Andrew Chafin with a three-run lead and then let him pitch even when it increased to a five-run cushion, but then tonight with a one-run lead they gave the ball to the less experienced Puk — even after Puk pitched last night and got knocked around. It’s not the first time this year that they’ve used their top arms to protect a bigger lead only to have them unavailable when they really need them the next day.
(Presumably, Diekman and Sergio Romo were slotted for the 8th and 9th? Lou Trivino was unavailable due to back spasms.)
The A’s regained some momentum lately before tonight’s setback, and in a tight postseason race you hate to leave any potential win on the table. But at least it was encouraging to see the offense humming for a while, and for what it’s worth the top relievers weren’t responsible for blowing the lead. Win tomorrow and you still take the series.