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Game #23: A’s bats fall silent in loss to Rays

First four-game losing streak this year

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

That was tough to watch.

The Oakland A’s were 2-hit by the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday evening, losing the series opener 6-1 and dropping the A’s to a season-low 3 games under the .500 mark.

Nothing went right for Oakland tonight. The starting pitcher wasn’t on his game from the first hitter, the bats went quiet yet again, and the poor defense reared its ugly head with the A’s having as many hits as errors tonight. At least the bullpen had a shutout game.

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It started ominously enough, with Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz connecting for a leadoff home run on a Daulton Jefferies curveball that hung up in the middle of the strike zone.

The A’s got their first base runner in the second, a two-out walk to Seth Brown. Then, with Chad Pinder at the plate he felt like testing the arm of Mike Zunino, who’s known to have a cannon attached to his shoulder where his arm should be. It was close, but Brown was able to steal second and set up a scoring chance for the A’s. Pinder came through, reaching out on a 3-2 pitch way off the plate to serve the ball into right field and bring ‘Brownie’ in:

The single extended Pinder’s hitting streak to 8 games, so it seems the adjustments he made to his swing while he was on the COVID list is paying off. A’s fans have wanted to see what Pinder could do if he was an everyday player and given regular at-bats, and he’s been one of the A’s few bright spots on offense so far in this young season.

After that single, 13 straight A’s batters were retired. It wasn’t until the 7th inning that Jed Lowrie laid down a bunt and just beat out the throw, with replay confirming Diaz’s foot was off the bag. The Rays proceeded to strike out the next three A’s hitters. Palm, meet face.

And that was it from the offense. 2 hits and a walk. You hate to imagine where this team would be if Sheldon Neuse or Pinder weren’t around.

The A’s couldn’t get a shutdown inning after scoring their lone run. Tampa opened the third and greeted Jefferies with four straight singles. Cristian Pache had his first ‘whoops’ moment with the A’s, charging in too hard and letting the second single bounce over his head and go all the way to the wall. Rookie mistake from a rookie player, but still surprising considering the magic he’s been performing patrolling center field so far. It ultimately didn’t matter since the next two batters got singles themselves, so chalk it up to a learning experience.

Tampa scored a couple more times in the fourth thanks to a double and a pair of singles, and then got an insurance run in the fifth thanks to a single followed by an RBI double to bring it to the final score of 6-1. Jefferies finished the inning, but his day was done after that having reached 90 pitches.

  • Daulton Jefferies: 5 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 90 pitches

That’s now back-to-back starts Jefferies hasn’t been on. He’s allowed 11 runs in his last nine innings, so he’s struggling through it right now. The 11 hits are also a season-high allowed by an A’s starting pitcher this year. With the expectations for this team so low and his hot start to the season, however, it’s important to keep in mind he’s a rookie with only 11 games under his belt, so he’s got a long leash right now and is going to be afforded time to fix the issues at the major league level.

On a night where most facets of the game were not working for Oakland, at least the A’s bullpen was perfect, throwing four shutout innings and wouldn’t have allowed a base runner if it weren’t for an Elvis Andrus error in the sixth. Righty Domingo Acevedo was the first out of the ‘pen and pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts, and left-handers Sam Moll and Adam Kolarek each pitched a perfect inning, with Moll getting two strikeouts of his own.

So, not the best day for the A’s on the field. They’ve lost four in a row and seven of the past nine, the team’s first real slump this year. That said, there was some good news off the field regarding Howard Terminal, the most important thing for Oakland fans this year. Brodie Brazil summed it up best during the post-game analysis:

This is just a recommendation, so it’s still too early to start popping champagne, but it’s hugely encouraging that this news came out. The official vote is June 30th, so circle the date, ladies and gentlemen. We might be finally nearing the end of this saga in A’s history. But with as many bumps in the road as there has been, don’t hold your breath. Fingers crossed!

Even team president Dave Kaval seemed encouraged, Per Matt Kawahara:

Dave Kaval: “I think we had momentum pushing away from us with that Seaport Advisory vote (in March). And this kind of halts that in its tracks and flips it around and gives us the momentum. It’s almost like we had maybe a five-run deficit and now we have a five-run lead.”

So bad stuff on the field tonight and good news off of it. I’ll take that trade-off. The A’s need to take some of the good mojo with the stadium and put it into their bats, hopefully before tomorrow night’s game. It’ll be righty Paul Blackburn for the second game of this series, looking to stop this skid and get the A’s back in the win column. He’s been one of the team’s best pitchers here in the early going, and he’ll be looking to build off his last start of five shutout innings against the Giants. See you all tomorrow!