The A’s dropped the final game of the first half today, getting swept by the Red Sox in a close 4-3 game that Oakland let slip out of their hands.
Oakland struck first today thanks to a little help from Boston. Ryan Noda got the A’s in the hit column with a first inning double off the Green Monster and came in to score thanks to a wild pitch and throwing error from the Red Sox catcher:
And then it was the pitching’s turn. It was left-hander JP Sears on the mound for the club and he got hurt by his defense too. A leadoff walk, wild pitch, and error by Jace Peterson at third put the runner at third and a sac fly brought him in to tie this game. No shutdown inning from the rookie.
The A’s got than run right back in the second though. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with just one out. After a Tony Kemp ground out, it was Noda up to bat again and he worked a 2-out walk on a close 3-2 count to force in a run. Seth Brown flied out after to end the threat but Oakland had at least cashed in one run and retaken the lead:
️ ᴡᴀɪᴛ— Oakland A's (@Athletics) July 9, 2023
walk sign is on to cross Lansdowne Street pic.twitter.com/dbW0RQWDkP
Oakland threatened but didn’t score in the third and fourth but got a big hit from All-Star Brent Rooker to extend the lead for the A’s in the fifth with his 16th home run of the year:
Meanwhile Sears was on cruise control, allowing just one hit in five innings of work. He was a little wild today as he also walked three and hit two batters but it was effectively wild. He got his ERA below 4.00 (3.88) and ended his day on a high note with an impressive strikeout of Red Sox star Rafael Devers. A great way to end his first half and head into the break feeling good. He deserved a win.
Interestingly, Paul Blackburn was first up out of the bullpen to start the sixth. It makes some sense considering he was scratched from yesterday’s start. But starting and relieving are two different things and Blackburn did not have it today. He allowed a solo home run on the first batter he faced to half the lead, then a single and double on a 3-2 count tied this game all up. He eventually got out of the inning but only after 39 pitches. Not a good appearance from last year’s A’s All-Star, and another no decision for Sears.
And the toughest part from this game was that the A’s had two on in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. And in all three frames the team couldn’t push even one extra insurance run across. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it.
Blackburn was done after that one inning of work. Ken Waldichuk relieved him for the seventh and had an impressive and quick 1-2-3 inning against the heart of the Boston lineup.
The bottom of the eighth went the exact opposite for the A’s. Waldichuk allowed a go-ahead solo home run to Masataka Yoshida. That was bad enough, but then a fielding error by Tyler Wade at shortstop was followed by no one covering second base, allowing the runner to advance into scoring position. Mark Kotsay went to the mound for a pitching change but you have to think he said something to his infielders for that blunder. Shintaro Fujinami came in and got a couple fly outs to end the inning.
The A’s would need a comeback against Kenley Jansen to win this one, or at least extend the game. Rooker was able to work a leadoff walk and Nick Allen pinch-ran for him, then went on the next pitch and got gunned down trying to steal second base. Ugh. The next two got sat down and that finished off the game, and the first half of the season.
Dang. It felt like the A’s were going to take this one. Instead the team limps into the All-Star break after getting swept in Boston and on a four-game losing streak. Sears was fantastic today and deserved a win. Unfortunately the offense couldn’t get the insurance runs they needed as the club went 1-13 with RISP. You’re not going to win many games like that. The club ends the first half with a 25-67 record. On the plus side of things, at least the team begins the second half at home.
And now the break. And it couldn’t come soon enough for this young A’s team. The MLB Home Run derby is tomorrow evening, the All-Star Game is Tuesday, and then two empty days before the games get going again Friday night.