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Athletics drop another one to Twins 6-4

A solid start from the rookie pitcher, though!

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland dropped their second straight to the Twins tonight, losing their 110th game of the season to Minnesota by a final of 6-4.

Rookie pitcher Joey Estes got the ball today looking to make one last big final impression on the coaching staff before the long offseason begins. Wouldn’t having a great performance sit in the coaching staff’s mind all winter be a nice thing for him coming into spring?

It didn’t start out that way for Estes though. The right-hander served up a leadoff home run to fellow rookie Edouard Julien on the very first pitch of the night. Not a good way to begin a game. Estes found himself in trouble again in the second and gave up another run but buckled down and struck out the next two batters to again limit the damage to one run. Still, it was a 2-0 game after two frames.

Already losing, the bats would need to wake up fast or else this could get out of hand quickly. Rookie outfielder Lawrence Butler led off the third with a double but the next two could only get him to third. They’d need a 2-out hit to bring Butler home, and Seth Brown delivered with an RBI single to put the club on the board. And that was after Brownie got shaken up on a dive ball attempt just the previous inning:

It’s fair to say he wasn’t too injured by that play.

The Athletics kept up the pressure in the fifth with a big inning from the hitters. Another Butler double got it started, and Ryan Noda followed him up with a single of his own to put runners at the corners to chase Twins starter Pablo Lopez. A Gelof strikeout brought Brown back up but Mark Kotsay turned to the bench instead. Aledmys Diaz came up and came through for Oakland with a game-tying RBi double down the left-field line:

We had a brand new ballgame in Minnesota but the A’s weren’t down there. Another two-out hit brought Noda and Diaz home to take a two-run lead. You can thank All-Star Brent Rooker for that:

With a lead, Joey Estes might be in line for his first win.

Speaking of Estes, the rookie really settled down tremendously after those rough first two innings. Estes allowed just two singles and a walk over the next three innings, and two of those baserunners were wiped out by groundball double plays. He was finally pulled with one out in the sixth after giving up a single, leaving the game on a high note and in line for the win.

-Joey Estes: 5 13 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K, 75 pitches

A vastly improved performance from Estes compared to his first career MLB start. Considering Estes rose this year from Double-A to the majors, this has to be one of the best ways to end a season. He’ll be competing for a rotation job next season and has as decent a shot as anyone as nabbing one of the coveted starting roles.

Anyway, back to the game. Opening Day starter Kyle Muller came on in relief for Estes and struck out the first batter he faced. Very good. The next batter then launched a game-tying 2-run home run, thus depriving Estes of a chance at his first career W. Not good at all. Muller allowed another single before Kotsay had seen enough and pulled him. What a fall from grace for Muller who went from a key piece of the return for Sean Murphy to Opening Day starter to where he is now. He might have more of an uphill climb in spring training than other based on how his 2023 has gone.

Lucas Erceg finished the frame for him easy enough. When he came back out for the next inning however things didn’t go so smooth. Back-to-back singles opened the frame and put the Twins’ go-ahead run in scoring position, then a sac fly made it runners at the corners. With things not looking good, Erceg made probably his biggest pitch for the A’s yet, including a ball back to him that he turned into a huge double play:

Absolutely massive. The Twins had failed to score and we still had a tie game.

Oakland got a glimpse of a chance for history in the 8th inning when Esteury Ruiz hit a single. He’s only one stolen base away from the AL rookie record, and he went for it today. Unfortunately he got nabbed, thus depriving him of the record and the team of a scoring opportunity.

Minnesota made Oakland pay for not taking the lead. With Dany Jimenez in for the bottom of the 8th, the Twins put up a pair of runs against the righty thanks to a couple hits and a sac fly. The Green & Gold were right back to where they started at the beginning of the game: down a couple runs.

Oakland made it super interesting in the top of the ninth by putting the tying run on base with just one out. It just wasn’t meant to be tonight though as Noda and Gelof both went down looking on strikes to end the threat and the game.

Well, they played hard tonight, and that’s all you can ask for a team like the A’s right now at this point of the year. Oakland had a nice inning from the bats and put pressure on the Twins late but the biggest bright spot tonight was from Joey Estes. We’ll be hoping to see more of him in the future. Next time we’ll be seeing him is Spring Training 2024.

The Athletics finish the series tomorrow, bright and early for a 10 am PT start. It’ll be right-hander Luis Medina against our old friend Sonny Gray in the series finally. Let’s avoid a sweep, shall we?