The offensive struggles continued for the A’s on Saturday afternoon, falling short and losing a close one to the Minnesota Twins 1-0.
The pitching was there, but the lineup just can’t find that early-season groove they were in just a few weeks ago, striking out 15 times while collecting just a trio of hits in this one.
After a short outing in his season debut last time out, starting pitcher James Kaprielian was looking for a better and longer performance today. He did just that, dominating the Twins lineup for the better part of Saturday afternoon.
Facing off against the man he was traded for, Kaprielian and Twins starter Sonny Gray traded zeros for the first four innings. The A’s actually put a base runner on in every inning against Gray, including getting the leadoff man on in each of the second, third, and fourth innings. They even got a runner to second base, but just couldn’t cash in on the few chances they had today.
It wasn’t any easier for the offense once Minnesota turned to their bullpen, collecting just one more hit and walk off three Twins relievers.
Kaprielian was on his A-game in his second start of the season, giving up just a pair of hits through the first five innings. His start ended on a tough note, however, as the last pitch of his day yielded a 2-out home run to Jorge Polanco in the bottom of the sixth.
- James Kaprielian: 5 2⁄3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 K, 99 pitches
The high pitch count was surprising considering it was just his second start since coming back from injury, but with the way he was throwing it seemed like the smart move. Mark Kotsay has been pulling his starters before they face a lineup a third time with good results, but he left Kap in for that third time through and it ended up backfiring.
Kotsay applauded Kap for bouncing back from his last start with Saturday's "awesome" outing pic.twitter.com/9dUTFJQ7Qn— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 7, 2022
Another stellar starting pitching performance from an A’s starting pitcher goes to waste because the offense just can’t get it going. The lineup has a .197 batting average during this 8-game losing streak, easily the biggest culprit behind the team’s struggles.
The bullpen put up a scoreless effort today. Righty Zach Jackson, coming off his worst outing of the year last time out, replaced Kaprielian and got a strikeout to end the sixth. Sam Moll, who has been superb this year not allowing a single run, pitched a shutout seventh while A.J. Puk and Lou Trivino combined to handle a scoreless eighth.
The A’s wouldn’t go down without a fight, though. With Oakland trailing by one in the ninth, Sheldon Neuse, Chad Pinder, and Seth Brown were due up, some of the A’s best hitters right now and who you’d want up in the ninth. The first two couldn’t do anything, but a two-out Brown walk brought up Kevin Smith. Kotsay decided to pinch hit with Sean Murphy, who had the day off up until this point. A HBP pushed the man on first into scoring position for Christian Bethancourt and brought some hope to the A’s, but a tough battle ended with a strikeout, with Twins rookie closer Jhoan Duran throwing multiple 100+ MPH pitches that A’s hitters had no answer for.
Oakland needs to turn it around and fast. They’ve fallen to last place in the AL West and don’t look nearly as cohesive as they did in the early parts of April. The pitching has been a lot better than expected this year, but there are too many hitters right now with sub-.200 batting averages and it’s caught up to the team. At least someone is looking at the situation with rose-colored glasses:
"I think people won't see from the outside the growth that is happening within a young team."— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 7, 2022
Pinder shares how the A's are working to overcome their current slump pic.twitter.com/AallJA9NQD
Oakland will look to avoid the sweep tomorrow, same time, same place. Right-hander Daulton Jefferies is in line to make his sixth start of the year, and after a couple duds in his previous two outings, will be looking to right the ship not only for himself but the A’s as well.
The A’s also got some bad injury news after the game, as Kotsay gave an update on outfielder Stephen Piscotty, who left yesterday’s game after running the bases.
per Martin Gallegos:
“Stephen Piscotty has a Grade 1 calf strain and will be going to the IL, Mark Kotsay said.”
You never want to see a player go on the IL, but the timing couldn’t be much more perfect than right now with the imminent return of Ramon Laureano tomorrow. As one of the best hitters on the team, the addition of Laser Ramon should help spark an offense that has averaged just 2.6 runs over this losing streak. Fingers crossed!