A’s can’t close home opener
O.CO COLISEUM — The Oakland A’s had plenty of opening day firsts Monday: First time since 1924 that their home opener goes scoreless through eight innings. First review called by an umpire, within the new guidelines. First time a manager has argued that a catcher was blocking home plate.
Then, there’s the first loss of the season for Oakland, as the A’s fell 2-0 hosting Cleveland.
It was the A’s tenth consecutive opening day loss, which is a new record.
Starter Sonny Gray (6 IP, 5 hits, 7 K. 0 ER) got off to a rocky start, walking the first two Cleveland batters before settling down and not allowing single run.
The A’s bats were kept silent by Cleveland’s starter Justin Masterson (7 IP, 4 hits, 3 K, 0 ER) and couldn’t get a rally started until the eighth inning.
Following a single from Daric Barton and a Coco Crisp walk, third baseman Josh Donaldson stepped into the box. He hit what may have been the longest fly ball-single on record, one that bounced off the top of the center-field wall. All the runners held and got only one bag a piece.
Two outs later, the A’s were retired without a run being scored. On Donaldson’s hit, manager Bob Melvin said he considered challenging it, but upon further review, decided not to:
“The ball went 399 and a half feet. It looked like it hit the pad, stuck for a minute, and then fell back down. But I was probably searching for anything.”
Barton, the lead runner on the play — and ultimately the reason that Crisp and Donaldson couldn’t advance — copped to a base-running mistake:
“He crushed it. I know as well as anyone that the ball doesn’t travel well here at night. Regardless, I probably should have been halfway.”
It wasn’t long after that new closer, Jim Johnson, came in and helped seal Oakland’s fate.
Opening the ninth inning, Johnson walked the leadoff hitter, gave up a a single, hit the next Cleveland batter with a fastball and allowed two runs to score on the two following at bats.
Johnson was not pleased, saying:
“I would have booed me, too. I sucked tonight. I deserved (to be booed).”
Johnson was pulled by Melvin right after, but Melvin stuck up for the new Athletic:
“He’s always the type of guy who’s one pitch away from getting a double-play ball, but it just didn’t happen for him today. All of a sudden it’s first and third, so it just wasn’t his day.”
Despite the bad outing, Melvin might have a point. Johnson had 50 saves last season, his last with the Orioles. Nonetheless, the relationship with the A’s fan base sunk real low, real fast.
Oakland has two more games against Cleveland, then hosts the division rival Seattle Mariners over a four-game stretch.