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Game #68: Father’s Day win! A’s beat Royals 4-0

A much better outing from Jared Koenig

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

A Happy Father’s Day indeed.

The Oakland A’s beat the Kansas City Royals 4-0 on a sunny afternoon at the Coliseum, celebrating the holiday by avoiding the sweep and getting back into the win column.

The rookie starting pitcher who had struggled in his brief time in the Majors had his first quality outing today, silencing the Royals’ bats while the offense got a couple big home runs to propel the team to victory. All in all, a good win to salvage from another tough series.

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

First baseman Seth Brown made sure the A’s had an early lead today, fouling off four balls before going the other way and blasting the eighth pitch of the at-bat over the left field wall:

That blast was Brown’s first of the year at the Coliseum and gave an early cushion for Oakland’s rookie starting pitcher.

Entering today, rookie lefty Jared Koenig had two subpar starts to start his career, allowing 10 runs in just 8 combined innings. Yes, the two starts were against some of the toughest and hottest teams in the league, but still, the confidence had to be at a low point entering today’s start against Kansas City.

Well, finally facing a lineup not stuffed with star hitters, Koenig showed why he rose through the minor leagues in just 13 months, not allowing a hit until the fifth inning. He sat down the first six batters in a row, and a leadoff walk to start the third didn’t hurt after he sat down the next three in order, too.

His first real trouble came in the fourth inning when a missed-catch error on Koenig covering first base and a walk put two runners on for Royals DH Carlos Santana. A hustling Brown helped Koenig get out of the jam, though, making a basket catch in the expanse that is the Coliseum foul territory:

The A’s had a chance to add on to their one-run lead in the third inning. A huge missed opportunity came in the bottom of the frame when Tony Kemp was thrown out at the plate, with replay review confirming the tag on Kemp’s pocket. You can see just how close here:

Tuck it in, folks. Tuck it in.

Kansas City got another excellent scoring chance the next inning after a leadoff double, but Koenig induced a couple groundball outs, walked Whit Merrifield on a close 3-2 pitch, then got a lineout to wiggle out of another jam and keep the Royals off the board.

It was more of the same in the bottom half of the frame for the A’s. A leadoff double by Sean Murphy and bunt single by Luis Barrera put runners at the corners with no outs, so it looked like Koenig would finally be getting some breathing room. After Crisitian Pache also tried bunting for a hit but only moved Barrera to second, the Royals brought the infield in for Kemp. He grounded the ball right to Merrifield at second base who threw home to get Murphy trying to score, tagging him out in a rundown. A pop out ended what started as a great inning before ending in frustration for Oakland.

The Royals loaded the bases in the top of the sixth against Koenig on a HBP, single, and walk, but Mark Kotsay allowed Koenig one more batter, getting a flyout for the second out of the inning before finally turning to Domingo Acevedo with two down and a righty up to bat.

  • Jared Koenig: 5 23 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 0 K, 89 pitches

Easily the best start of his young career so far. He started out hot, retiring eight of the first nine he faced, but was able to wiggle out of the jams he did find himself in later in the game. He didn’t get any strikeouts, instead inducing a lot of weak contact that he allowed his defense to clean up after him. Koenig spoke about his long and winding journey to The Show afterwards:

Anyway, back to the game. With Koenig in line for a possible win or loss, Acevedo got a huge strikeout to end the top of the sixth and leave the bases loaded for the Royals, locking in Koenig’s first shutout appearance and in line for his first win.

The bottom of the inning went the other way for Oakland. A leadoff single and HBP were followed by a wild pitch that put a couple insurance runs for the A’s in scoring position. A strikeout and pop out were the two things Oakland had to avoid in this situation, so you know that the next two A’s batters struck out and popped out. With two down, Murphy strode to the plate and brought those two home and then some:

That 3-run bomb was Murphy’s third hit of the day and suddenly the A’s could breath. Acevedo stayed in the game for the seventh and had a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts, Zach Jackson handled the eighth and worked around a leadoff walk to keep Kansas City scoreless, and Sam Moll had the ninth inning in a non-save situation. A leadoff single and a two-out walk put the tying run to the on-deck circle to give fans just a small dose of nervousness, but Moll got a lineout to Pache in center field to end this one, breaking Oakland’s 8-game home losing streak.

A great all-around win for a club that’s had those few and far between this year. The starting pitching was on point, the lineup got a couple big home runs from the power guys, and the bullpen threw 3 13 shutout innings. Now, rinse and repeat.

The win sends the A’s into the Monday off-day on a high note, and an even higher note for Jared Koenig. The win was the first in his career, and best of all, he got to do it in front of his dad on Father’s Day!

After tomorrow’s break, the A’s begin a new series by welcoming the Seattle Mariners to town for a 3-game set. There’s no scheduled starter for the series opener, yet, but it’s James Kaprielian’s turn in the rotation. It wouldn’t be the worst time to skip one of his starts after getting shelled by Boston last week, though. Stay tuned!