The A’s had a pair of leads and fought until the end, but for the second straight night a late bullpen implosion cost the A’s even a chance at a win, falling to the Cleveland Guardians 8-4 on Wednesday night.
The losing streak is now at nine games after losing the series opener and have now tied their longest losing streak this year. It’s the first time they’ve had two nine-game or more losing streaks since 1978. Not good.
Both teams had a sleepy first inning, with both James Kaprielian and Konnor Pilkington throwing a shutout frame to get this game going.
The real fireworks started in the second. After Sean Murphy led off getting hit by a pitch, Christian Bethancourt came up and swatted the third pitch he saw from Pilkington:
That oppo taco was the A’s first home run in five games and Bethancourt’s second of the year. The next batter walked and was picked off, which hurt since the A’s then loaded the bases, which would have brought in another run. Oakland’s hottest hitter, Ramon Laureano, came up and popped out to right field, ending a chance to blow this game wide open.
Pilkington settled in for the next few innings, retiring 9 of the next 10 batters and getting a double play on the one runner that got on.
It looked like Kaprielian wouldn’t have a shutdown inning after serving up a leadoff double in the bottom of the frame, but he buckled down by getting a groundout, strikeout, and another groundout to prevent the runner from even advancing. He retired the side in order in the bottom of the third for six straight outs.
That streak quickly ended, as Cleveland stud José Ramírez took the first pitch in the fourth and yanked it for a solo shot to put the Guardians on the board. First baseman Josh Naylor follow with his own bomb, making it back-to-back jacks and tying this game.
It took a couple innings, but the A’s took the lead back in the sixth. With two out, Bethancourt again hit the ball hard, this time for a single. Shortstop Elvis Andrus followed him with a double to put two runners in scoring position. With Matt Davidson up, who had gone 0-for-2 with a strikeout today, Mark Kotsay turned to the bench, calling on Seth Brown for the left-on-right advantage:
That two-run double put the A’s back in front, and also put Kaprielian in line for the win after he had a 1-2-3 fifth inning to end his day.
With the lead and about to go through the lineup a third time, Kotsay went to A.J. Puk first out of the bullpen.
- James Kaprielian: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 75 pitches
Even though the lineup was about to turn over again, it still felt like an especially early hook for the right-hander today. At only 75 pitches, throwing as well as he had been recently and having only allowed two runs, you’d think Kotsay would want to push him as deep into this game as possible since the bullpen has been struggling mightily during this stretch. Not tonight, as he wouldn’t allow Kap to see the lineup a third time.
So Puk came in for the sixth and allowed s single and stolen base to put a Guardian in scoring position, and a two-out single drove him in and halved the Oakland lead.
The A’s again got stung on a two-out hit in the seventh after Zach Jackson walked his first batter and allowed a single to put the tying and go-ahead runs on base. Again, Kotsay turned to the bullpen, asking lefty Sam Moll to get the left-handed Steven Kwan. It didn’t work out, as Moll surrendered only his fourth hit to a lefty all year, this one a game-tying RBI single. He ended the inning throwing four straight sliders to Naylor for a strikeout, but the damage was done.
It felt like deja vu, but Bethancourt again came up with two outs and got a hit, this time a double in the top of the eighth. A wild pitch moved him to third and Oakland was only 90 feet away from retaking the lead, but an Andrus grounder to the third baseman ended the threat.
With the game tied 4-4 in the eighth, Kotsay looked into the bullpen and picked out Lou Trivino, owner of a 6.91 ERA heading into today. Four singles and a double later, Oakland was down 8-4, ballooning his ERA all the way to 9.20 after getting pulled with only one out. He was thriving in lower-leverage situations, but the past two appearances have come in close games and he’s allowed them both to get away. At what point does he get put exclusively in mop up duty?
Facing a daunting 4-run deficit, the A’s tried to rally with two outs thanks to a pinch-hit Luis Barrera single and Tony Kemp double, bringing Laureano up to the plate and the tying run on deck. Unfortunately a flyout to right field ended his 11-game hit streak and the game.
Oakland continues to fall farther and farther from the rest of the pack, now seven games behind the fourth-place Rangers and 17 out of first. The energy this club showed in the first month has completely evaporated and the team is struggling to get any of the cogs going at the same time. This was always going to be a developmental year for the younger players, but the team isn’t playing most of them, electing to trot out guys who won’t be apart of the next winning A’s club like Lowrie, Andrus, Bethancourt, and Matt Davidson. Why is a young player like Barrera that could be apart of that future club on the bench against a right-handed starter?
Anyway, they’ll try again to break this losing streak tomorrow, and they’ll have one of their best pitchers going in Paul Blackburn. He’s struggled in his past two starts but otherwise has been having an All-Star worthy season. He’ll be opposed by Triston McKenzie, who himself is having a great year. Same time, same place.