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A’s fall to White Sox on a walk-off error

Live by small ball, die by small ball.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In one of their toughest matchups of Spring Training so far, the Oakland Athletics narrowly lost 5-4 to AL Cy Young runner-up Dylan Cease and the Chicago White Sox on a sac bunt that produced a walk-off error.

The pitching also did its job. Setting the tone from the beginning, starter Drew Rucinski did exactly what we should expect from his outings this season: eat up innings, induce a ton of groundballs, limit baserunners, and keep the team in the ballgame. Outside of a solo homer and an RBI sac fly, Rucinski mostly cruised through his start, ending with 5.1 IP, two walks, just one strikeout, and two earned runs. Not overpowering but not bad either.

Following two troubling outings that made fans sorely miss Rucinski’s spiritual predecessor, Cole Irvin, he showed why the A’s guaranteed him a starting spot for the 2023 season. If he can put up similar, if not better, numbers to replace Irvin’s production (maybe enough to get flipped midseason for another Darell Hernaiz), the signing will be a win for the A’s.

On the offensive side, Oakland mostly played small ball to get runs on the board. In the top of the 1st, Seth Brown caused a bit of havoc on the basepaths, stealing second base with Shea Langeliers at third. A botched throw from White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal allowed Langeliers to show off his nimble catcher legs and score the first run of the ballgame. Soon after, Ryan Noda knocked a sacrifice fly to score Brown from third, putting the A’s up 2-0.

After the solo homer from White Sox infielder Hanser Alberto in the 3rd, the A’s regained their 2-run lead with a Brent Rooker double that gave Brown his second run of the game. Chicago tied the game and took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the 7th with a string of 2-out hits off reliever Domingo Acevedo.

Oakland fought back with back-to-back doubles from the aforementioned Hernaiz and catcher Kyle McCann. Following an announcement this morning that Manny Pina may not be ready for the start of the season, McCann made his case to fill that temporary backup catcher spot. Unfortunately, with no outs on the board, three of the next four batters struck out and he was left stranded at second base.

After failing to score the go-ahead run in the 9th, the A’s had no choice left but to hope for a tie game. Instead, chaos ensued and the small ball strategy that put them in a position to win also led to their last-minute downfall.

First, Chicago DH Victor Reyes, who was called out on strikes, reached first on a passed ball by McCann (there goes his Opening Day argument). With a runner at first and Oakland still needing three outs, the White Sox decided to expend one of those outs to put the winning run in scoring position. Billy Hamilton, long known for his speed, laid down a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher Nolan Long. Hurrying to get the out, Long errored and threw the ball past first baseman Tyler Soderstrom and down the line, allowing Reyes to go all the way from second to home plate, scoring the walkoff run. Cue face palm.

All in all, an eye-roll ending with a few promising performances from the A’s. Next up is a matchup tomorrow against divisional rivals, the Seattle Mariners.