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Game #132: Waldichuk solid in debut but A’s lose 7-5

A solid first performance from the rookie left-hander

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland lost the series finale 7-5 to the Nationals.

The big story today was the debut of Oakland’s prized pitching prospect and he delivered, showcasing a filthy arsenal that should have A’s fans salivating over the future, and the lineup did some damage, but the bullpen was awful tonight, costing the team a win multiple times and ensuring a series loss to the worst team in the league.

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

Waldichuk’s debut

While there was a baseball game being played between the two worst teams in the league, all eyes were on the mound today to see the debut of one of the top young prospects in the game.

It seemed like everyone wanted to see Oakland’s prize starting pitcher as fast as possible as the first three A’s went down 1-2-3 to start this game.

That brought the left-handed Ken Waldichuk out to the mound for his MLB debut. It didn’t start how he or the A’s probably wanted it to, though, as his first pitch in the Majors was pulled down the left-field line for a leadoff double, and the next batter drove an RBI single up the middle followed by another hit to put runners at the corners. After just three batters, Waldichuk had given up a run and was in danger of allowing more, but he also showed off his raw stuff as he collected his first two career strikeouts, including one to end the inning and escape the early jam with just the one run allowed.

The lefty had arguably his best moment of the day in the second. After allowing a leadoff triple (thanks to a misplay by Cal Stevenson in center), Waldichuk stranded that runner there with a groundout and two K’s, strikeouts #3 & 4 already.

Conversely, he had his biggest jam in the third after loading the bases thanks to a hit and a couple more walks. After a scare involving a foul ball and the third base line, Waldichuk got a needed lazy flyout to left to escape unscathed.

From there, he retired the side in order in the fourth and got the first two outs of the fifth before a couple walks pushed his pitch count up and brought Mark Kotsay out off the dugout to retrieve the rookie and turn this game over to the Oakland bullpen. Waldichuk’s day was done.

  • Ken Waldichuk: 4 ⅔ IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 6 K, 93 pitches

After looking shaky early, Waldichuk settled down and retired six in a row at one point. The nerves had to have been getting to him hard in the first as he clearly got more comfortable after that inning. The walks need to be dialed back in his next start but A’s fans were hoping to see an electric arm and that’s what they saw. Of Waldichuk’s 93 pitches, 57 were strikes. And his strikeouts were evenly split, three swinging and three looking. Kotsay said in postgame comments that he’ll be getting another turn through the rotation, so we won’t have to wait too long to see him again.

Bats quiet-ish

Oakland kept the no-hitter against them streak alive again today with a one-out single in the second from Vimael Machin, but they didn’t really get much going today against Washington starter Paolo Espino through the first four innings today.

The fifth saw Oakland finally break through against the righty. Another top young player made his mark today when catcher Shea Langeliers, behind the plate for Waldichuk’s debut today, hit his third career home run to tie this game and get his battery mate off the hook for a potential loss in his debut:

That home run was one of many feel-good moments for the club today and they had another the very next batter when outfielder Cody Thomas, also making his MLB debut today, hit a ball the other way for his first career hit:

Oakland got another hit in the inning from Stevenson but didn’t do anything with it.

Bullpen Game

With both Waldichuk and Espino out of the 1-1 game after five innings, it would be a battle of the ‘pens. The A’s managed to load the bases in the sixth on a HBP, walk, and single but stranded them all while Joel Payamps sat down the Nats in the bottom half 1-2-3.

After wasting a great scoring opportunity the previous inning, Oakland went small-ball in the seventh. A leadoff walk to Cristian Pache, who came in to replace Thomas, and a sac bunt put him in scoring position for Tony Kemp, who came through for the A’s with an RBI knock to bring in a hustling Pache and take the lead:

Not happy with a small lead, Sean Murphy got a hit to put runners at the corners and Seth Brown came up after him and gave the A’s that insurance run they needed.

Washington got one back in the bottom half against Payamps thanks to a couple singles and an RBI groundout, prompting Kotsay to go to Sam Moll against a lefty, which worked to perfection with a strikeout to end the frame.

Oakland got a triple from Pache in the eighth but with two already out couldn’t bring him in, and they needed that run, too, as Washington tied this game in the bottom half against AJ Puk. After neither team scored in the ninth, the clubs were heading for extras in D.C.

The top of the 10th saw Oakland retake the lead thanks to a huge 2-run double from Langeliers that juuuuust missed being his second homer of the day:

Then right-hander Norge Ruiz came on in the bottom half for the save and allowed the courtesy runner to come around and score on a hit, then a walk and 3-run home run finished off the game, stunning the A’s when they were one pitch away from a win. That’s where missing Zach Jackson and Dany Jimenez hurts.

So the A’s lose the series between the two worst teams in the league. That said, there were a lot of young players that the A’s got to see during this series, with a lot of highs mixed with some lows. Unlike the middle months of the season when Oakland was marching out aging veterans, this September should be chock full of exciting youngsters on a daily basis.

They’ll take the short bus ride up the I-95 to Baltimore to start a fresh series against the surprising playoff contenders. Oakland will march out another rookie in JP Sears while the Orioles will counter with Dean Kremer. Sears has been great through his first three starts with the A’s and he’ll be hoping to continue that tomorrow night.