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Game #11: A’s capitalize on errors to win home opener

Defeat Orioles 5-1, thanks to four unearned runs

Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Defense wins ballgames.

That truth was on full display Monday at the Coliseum, as the Oakland A’s defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win their 2022 home opener. The final score was 5-1 and the defense made all the difference, with the A’s lineup benefiting from four unearned runs while their fielders threw out two Orioles runners at the plate.

*** Click here to revisit tonight’s Game Thread! ***

Those bonus runs all came in the 6th inning, and all with two outs already on the board. Baltimore flubbed two grounders during that frame, giving Oakland all the help they needed to post a crooked number and take the lead for good.

Making the triumph even sweeter was the reversal of fortune it represented. Just yesterday it was Oakland committing a couple costly errors and dropping a close game, but tonight they flipped the script as their superior glove work helped earn them a win. That’s some encouragingly rapid growth from the rebuilding club.

Early tie

Through the first five innings, this was looking like a quick, tidy affair.

The A’s struck right away. Tony Kemp led off the 1st with a walk, Sean Murphy doubled him over the third, and Billy McKinney made contact for a productive RBI groundout. A clean, straightforward run.

The Orioles battled back in the 5th. A walk put a runner on, and a two-out double brought him home. Seth Brown nearly caught the sinking liner in right field to rob that RBI drive, but it would have been a fantastic play, and it was correctly ruled a hit.

Otherwise, not much happened. Oakland starter Frankie Montas cruised, facing the minimum up until that 5th inning, and the A’s lineup went similarly quiet after their early rally.

Putting the O’s in “Oops”

Then, all of a sudden, lots of stuff happened.

Baltimore threatened to score in the top of the 6th, but Oakland stopped them in their tracks. With former A’s prospect Jorge Mateo on third base, and the infield playing in with only one out, the Orioles hit a grounder to the right side. First baseman McKinney pounced on the ball and delivered a throw home in time to nab the speedy Mateo, assisted by a beautiful block and tag from the catcher Murphy.

Textbook! Sound fundamental defense saved a run and preserved the tie. The next batter was retired for the third out when Murphy hustled all the way to the dugout to catch a foul popup.

The bottom of the 6th served as an opposite example, of fielding gone wrong. With two outs on the board, McKinney singled to get something going. Christian Bethancourt followed with a sharp but routine grounder to third base, which should have ended the inning, but instead it was thrown away for an error. By the time it was done rolling around in the Coliseum’s expansive foul territory, McKinney had time to stop for a hot dog before easily crossing the plate.

Not only did that misplay result in a run, it also extended the inning, and Oakland took full advantage.

With Bethancourt now on second base, Brown drew a walk and the table was set. Sheldon Neuse lined a single for an RBI, then Kevin Smith hit a grounder up the middle that the second baseman knocked down but couldn’t quite convert, allowing another run to score on what was ruled an error. Cristian Pache came up next and singled up the middle for another run.

It should have been a short inning, just four batters with a stray single stranded at first, but instead it snowballed into a four-run rally on only three hits. That’s the value of defense for better or worse, and the A’s capitalized on the opportunity that was gifted to them.

The lesson came full circle in the top of the 7th. Baltimore began brewing a comeback, putting runners at the corners with one out, and it looked like they might drive one home with a flyball to right field. But once again they were denied, as Brown caught it and unleashed a throw to the plate, complete with another brilliant block and tag by Murphy to retire the runner.

Like McKinney’s highlight earlier, this wasn’t any kind of acrobatic web gem, just a perfectly executed play by Brown. The Orioles challenged him and he answered the call, getting himself into proper position on the catch and sending a strong throw directly at Murphy on one well-placed hop.

Pitching

Montas pitched through the 6th inning, but once the A’s took the lead they turned to the bullpen to finish the evening.

  • Montas: 6 ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 2 BB, 2 hits, 83 pitches

Presumably he could have gone longer if needed, but this quality effort turned out to be enough tonight as the relievers and the defense stepped up to take care of the rest.

Three right-handers came out of the arm barn tonight:

  • Domingo Acevedo took the 7th, with help from Brown’s play at the plate.
  • Justin Grimm worked a scoreless 8th, striking out a pair and navigating around a triple.
  • Dany Jimenez wrapped up the 9th, loading the bases but sealing it with his second strikeout.

None of them had a perfect frame, but they kept the ball in the park and never quite let the opponent find home plate.

That’s a total team effort by a hungry club.

Win For Ray

In a darker timeline, this could have been a ho-hum 3-1 loss. But the A’s made their plays, and the Orioles didn’t, and Oakland earned every bit of their 5-1 victory even if most of the runs were unearned in the box score.

It was an especially fitting show for the home opener in memory of Ray Fosse, our beloved broadcaster who passed away in October and was honored with an emotional video tribute tonight. The Coliseum was rocking, the A’s played a great game and won, and their star catcher led the way with several defensive highlights. Wow!