Every time it looks like the Oakland A’s are picking up some positive momentum, they hit a snag, and it happened again Saturday.
The A’s were well on their way to a fourth straight victory at the Coliseum, with a four-run lead entering the 8th inning, but the bullpen faltered again and let it slip away for an 8-6 loss to the Texas Rangers. That’s their eighth blown save in the past three weeks.
Oakland had everything else they needed to win today. Their offense stayed hot, piling up a half-dozen runs in the first four innings including three homers to take a commanding early lead. Their rotation tossed another seven-inning gem, this time from a pitcher who had struggled his previous few times out. And they had their two hottest late-inning relievers available to cover the final two frames.
But then, as it has so often lately, it went wrong. With a 6-2 lead in the 8th inning, Sergio Romo took setup duties. A single and a homer made it 6-4, and a walk and a double made it 6-5.
That brought in Andrew Chafin to escape the jam, with the tying run on base. His first batter was Jonah Heim, the former A’s prospect who was traded to Texas last winter, and Heim blasted a hanging slider for a go-ahead two-run homer to make it 7-6. The Rangers added one more in the 9th on a solo homer.
Frustrating. Another winnable game lost, and in particular another blown save. In the past 19 games the pen has blown it eight times, in seven different games (twice in one game), and it’s resulted in six losses (once they still won in the end). Six different relievers have been the culprit at least once, leaving nobody to fully trust.
The A’s lineup has jumped out to a lot of early leads recently, and they did it again this afternoon. They scored in each of the first four innings, using a bit of power and a bit of clutch hitting.
In the 1st inning, Starling Marte went deep for a solo homer. Two batters in, they were up 1-0.
Marte hits one out and almost misses touching second base pic.twitter.com/wizJdnl71m— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) September 11, 2021
In the 2nd inning, it was a two-out rally, with Khris Davis blasting a double and then Chad Pinder singling him home.
In the 3rd inning, it was another solo homer, this time from Matt Olson.
Matt Olson with this bomb:— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) September 11, 2021
5⃣0⃣0⃣ hits pic.twitter.com/esWookhV31
That put them up 3-0, but in the top of the 4th the Rangers pulled it within 3-2. Oakland answered back in the bottom of the 4th.
The inning began with a leadoff walk, and then Mark Canha homered.
Outta da park MARK gets the two runs back for the A's pic.twitter.com/q79bmRVXev— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) September 11, 2021
That’s Canha’s fifth long ball in his last 11 games.
The inning continued. A walk and a double set up a new opportunity, and Josh Harrison lofted a sac fly to cash in another run.
In their previous 10 games, the A’s were averaging a robust six runs per contest, and they matched that output today. At the time it put them up 6-2, which should have been enough, especially with the performance they got from their rotation.
Starter Cole Irvin was going through a slump lately, but he bounced back this afternoon with seven strong innings. He worked around a bit of hard contact early on, and Texas earned themselves a couple runs in the 4th with a few rockets, but he kept everything in the park. After that rally in the 4th he settled down and retired nine straight batters, and 11 of his final 12 through the end of the 7th.
- Irvin: 7 ip, 2 runs, 8 Ks, 1 BB 6 hits, 93 pitches, 88.9 mph EV
He didn’t make it out of the 5th in any of his previous three starts, allowing 13 runs in 10 innings, so tonight’s quality effort was an especially encouraging development. The rotation looked like it was running out of steam at the end of August, but now three different starters pitched well in the last few days.
Unfortunately, all that offense plus Irvin’s quality start didn’t result in a win today. It only took seven batters for the bullpen to blow the four-run lead, with Romo facing six and then Chafin serving up the game-winner. And it came at the hands of Heim, another ghost from the A’s past haunting them just like Marcus Semien did a week ago in Toronto. Womp womp.
In addition to another dramatic loss, Oakland also had an injury, as Matt Chapman fouled a ball off his left foot/shin and exited in the 5th. X-rays were negative but he probably won’t play Sunday, reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.
Right as the A’s were regaining ground in the postseason race, they stumbled again. Facing a last-place opponent with a big lead in the 8th inning, they’ve gotta finish that off, but the blown saves continue piling up as they leave win after win on the table. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees both won, and the Blue Jays won twice in a doubleheader. There’s still time, but it’s running out quickly with each deflating loss.
In its last 19 games, the A's pitching staff has an 8.32 ERA in innings 7-through-9, if my math's right. That's mostly bullpen, a few runs charged to starters. Bullpen ERA overall in that span is 6.75. SPs have worked 97.2 IP total, RPs have worked 69.1 IP.— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) September 12, 2021