The All-Star break was supposed to refresh and recharge a slumping A’s offense. But the slump carried over.
The Oakland A’s 4-2 loss to the Indians on Sunday cemented a series loss in three games and Cleveland’s first series win in Oakland since 2014. It was another game lost on the slimmest of margins where the pitching staff’s few mistakes were magnified by the lineup’s inability to produce many — or any — scoring threats.
Friday, the A’s rallied back in the ninth for a walk-off. Saturday, the A’s lost by a run and squandered plenty of ripe scoring threats — the team hanging hope on the fact they were at least putting themselves into those opportunities. Sunday, those opportunities didn’t even occur as the A’s went 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position.
With Mark Canha back in the lineup and an injured list down to a small handful, the A’s are still faltering at full strength.
“We feel like we’re healthier and have a deeper lineup, we just haven’t seen the results yet,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I feel good about it every day we go out there. They get in good work in the cage Bushy does well preparing them about how they’re going to be pitched to, we’re just in a rut right now. Every day we go out there, I feel like we’re going to break out of it.”
Cleveland starter Zach Plesac surrendered hard contact up and down the A’s lineup — some luck was involved there.
Sean Murphy was robbed of a potential extra-base hit in the second inning that could have scored Matt Chapman from second. That second inning saw the A’s most significant scoring opportunity and the first run, unearned for Plesac on second baseman Ernie Clement’s throwing error on a tailor made double play ball by Chapman. The error scored Jed Lowrie from third.
Seth Brown’s 11th home run tied the game up 2-2 in the fifth. It could have been a go-ahead home run if not for Ramón Laureano’s aggressive attempt to turn an easy double into a triple in the at-bat prior. Lauerano’s hit tipped off center fielder Zimmer’s glove, who made a throw to third baseman Jose Ramirez, who was a few feet off the base.
Trying to create some offensive spark, Laureano went for third. But he was tagged out at third in a bang-bang play that warranted a challenge. Umpires confirmed the out upon review.
“There’s nobody out, and when you aren’t scoring any runs, you try to make something happen,” Melvin said. “(Ball is) out there in no-mans land and saw how far away the third baseman was and took a chance at getting there. Just didn’t work out.”
Plesac and a tough Indians bullpen retired the A’s last 13 batters as they slowly took the lead.
“That’s just baseball for you,” Brown said. “Next week we could all be hitting 1.000.”
Chris Bassitt’s strong start: The A’s All-Star danced nicely on that slim margin of error, but two players with Bay Area ties did all the damage against him.
Bradley Zimmer, who played college ball at University of San Francisco, hit the very first pitch of the game for a home run to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
“Straight location. The guy is swinging first pitch and expecting a fastball and I throw it middle-middle, bad things happen,” Bassitt said.
Zimmer’s broken-bat RBI single gave the Indians their second run on Bassitt.
Vallejo native Daniel Johnson, who entered the game batting .111 in seven games with the Indians, hit the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning, the first of his career. Bassitt said he had a moment of confusion on the mound during the at-bat, applying the scouting report for Indians five-hitter Bobby Bradley to Johnson.
“I had a complete mental eff-up where I knew Bradley wasn’t hitting, but I knew the scouting report in my head was Bradley was hitting. I was pitching to Bradley, but he wasn’t hitting,” Bassitt said. “Murph was calling the completely right pitches, but I was just thinking…I eff’d the game up because I just had the wrong scouting report.”
But Bassitt, an Ohio native, emerged from his seven-inning start with eight strikeouts on six hits with those three runs allowed — at one point, he retired 10 straight batters. The A’s starter peppered in a handful more curveballs than he has in his previous starts, some are a slower slider variation.
“He had the same stuff he has had all year for us,” Melvin said. “First-pitch fastball, homer, then the last homer was the only other mistake he made after that. He made a couple pitches he had to pay for and we just didn’t do enough offensively.”
The A’s looked to be clear for another one-run loss, but Yusmeiro Petit couldn’t navigate an action-packed ninth inning and allowed a run.
Shohei Ohtani next: The A’s will look to right the ship against the Los Angeles Angels with two-way star Ohtani on the mound on Monday night. The Houston Astros were shut out by the Chicago White Sox, which means the A’s remain 3.5 games back of them in the American League West.
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Author: Shayna Rubin