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Game #20: A’s waste big night from offense, lose 9-8

At least Sheldon Neuse had another big game

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s lost a see-saw affair on Friday night, losing the series opener against the Cleveland Guardians 9 to 8.

After scoring only six runs over their past five games, the A’s bats finally woke up, collecting 10 hits tonight. When you score 8 times in any given game, you have a pretty good chance to win. Not tonight, though. Of course the one night the offense comes alive the pitching isn’t on its game.

#FilthyFrankie was not that today, getting bit by a couple home runs to go along with an uncharacteristic four walks. The bullpen wasn’t much better, allowing the Guardians to retake the lead in a disaster 7th inning. Oakland fought to the end, even getting the tying run to third in the bottom of the ninth, but ultimately fell short in this one.

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In the eb and flow of a long season, even the best players are going to struggle. Frankie Montas didn’t throw the ball bad tonight, but he wasn’t his usual self, either. The game began with Montas striking out the first two hitters of the night before the red-hot Jose Ramirez stepped into the box and launched the third pitch he saw into the right field bleachers.

Not ideal to fall behind so fast, but the A’s charged right back in the bottom half of the frame. Cleveland starter Aaron Civale did not have it tonight. A Tony Kemp double got things started, and an 11-pitch Jed Lowrie at-bat ended with a walk on a close checked swing. That brought up Sean Murphy, who didn’t wait around and swung at the first pitch he saw:

The A’s weren’t done there, getting back-to-back singles from Seth Brown and Chad Pinder before a Billy McKinney flyout brought in Brown in from third. No shut down inning for Cleveland!

The A’s had the lead, but it didn’t take long for the Guardians to strike back. A disaster third inning saw Montas allow a leadoff single before walking the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. He almost pulled a Houdini, getting a shallow flyout and a strikeout to bring up Andres Gimenez. Montas was one strike away from escaping the jam unscathed, but a 3-2 fastball right down Broadway was launched into right field for a grand slam. In the blink of an eye, the A’s were trailing again.

Oakland played a little small ball to retake the lead in the fourth. An Elvis Andrus HBP and Cristian Pache single put runners on the corners for Kemp, who roped a ball down the left field line for an out but deep enough to bring in Andrus from third. Pache made a nice heads up play taking second base on the throw, and the A’s benefited with a Sheldon Neuse RBI single to bring him in and retake the lead.

With the A’s on top and Montas at 96 pitches, Mark Kotsay turned to the bullpen in the sixth, letting Montas end on a high note with a strikeout and in line for the win.

  • Frankie Montas: 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 6 K, 96 pitches

Again, not his best outing, but when you boil down his day, the big damage really came from only a couple bad pitches to Ramirez and Gimenez. The walks were a big problem, too, with two of them scoring on the grand slam, but he also collected six strike outs. Even when he’s not perfect he racks up the K’s. Montas came into the game with only four walks on the entire season, so to see him not in complete control of the strike zone tonight was a rarity.

Oakland would get a couple insurance runs in the sixth thanks to a Sheldon Neuse 2-run triple, the first of his career:

It feels like it should go without saying, but Neuse seems to have taken a strangle hold on the third base job and continues his hot start with the bat. His ability to go the other way has been the most impressive part, consistently taking what the pitching is offering him and just shooting it the other way for opposite field hits, as we see on the triple. It was interesting to see Kotsay move Neuse to second base when Kemp got hurt and Kevin Smith came in and took over at third. Keep an eye on how Kotsay handles having both of these two on the roster again.

Things were only down hill from there. The seventh inning came around and started out like this:

Double

Double

Double

Home run

Those four runs in the top of the seventh put Cleveland back on top with a 1-run lead. Of all the games for the bullpen to implode, of course it had to be the one where the offense actually did some damage.

The A’s went down in order in the seventh and eighth innings and looked defeated before a leadoff double by Smith, fresh off the IL, brought some life back to the dugout and the crowd. A Neuse groundout to second moved the runner to third, but a Lowrie groundout with the infield in and a Murphy strikeout ended this one with the tying run just 90 feet away.

This is a loss you just roll your eyes at. The slumping offense finally got some big hits and scored a lot of runs, but the pitching, which had been on fire during this recent stretch, put up a dud. Montas’ final line looks worse than how he pitched for most of the game, which is encouraging looking forward. A.J. Puk threw two shutout innings and got four strikeouts in yet another impressive outing. And the offense might finally start scoring some runs with the return of Lowrie from COVID. His presence sure seemed to help today.

Brush it off, everyone. The A’s continue their series against these same Guardians tomorrow for some Saturday afternoon baseball. Left-hander Cole Irvin is slated to take the mound for his fifth start of the year, while the lineup will get a test facing off against 2020 Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Should be a good pitching duel, let’s just hope Oakland is on the winning end.

In lieu of an A’s win, please enjoy “The Child”: