O.CO COLISEUM — The series finale between the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics started with a bang but became nothing more than cheap firecrackers after the first inning.
Chicago’s Gordon Beckham and Oakland’s John Jaso hit lead-off home runs in each of their halves of first inning, though Oakland’s bats were muffled afterward on their way to the 4-2 loss.
Entering the ninth inning, Chicago led 4-2 and Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss were due up. Lowrie walked, Josh Donaldson singled to center, moving Lowrie to second base.
Brandon Moss, who hit two home runs Tuesday night, stepped to the plate. He grounded into a double play, sending Lowrie to third. Cespedes was next to bat and struck out, ending the ballgame as well as Oakland’s six-game win streak.
The A’s only had two hits entering the ninth inning, the home run from Jaso and fourth-inning jack by Donaldson, whose late-game single was the only other hit of the game for Oakland.
Chicago rookie phenom Jose Abreu smashed a three-run home run in the eighth that helped the Sox take the lead, and ultimately, the win.
The blast was Abreu’s 15th on the year. A’s manager Bob Melvin said:
“We were trying to get him out, we’d been pitching him (on the outside part of the plate) all day, but one got left out in the middle of the plate.”
The pitch came from Oakland’s Luke Gregerson, just after he had relieved Francisco Abad (L, 0-1, 2.25 ERA). A string of right-handed hitters prompted Melvin to bring Gregerson into the game, even though Abad had pitched well.
Abreu’s homer came on a 0-1 count, with Gregerson seemingly going for the kill. The loss overshadows the fact Milone had allowed only five hits and no walks in six innings of work.
Wednesday afternoon was Milone’s second strong outing after starting the season, which is something he said is feeling good about:
“I’m trying to get back to being consistent.”
Milone’s outing aside, the A’s bats never got going after scoring 25 runs in the past three games. Melvin wasn’t concerned about Abreu’s home run or the bullpen.
Melvin hardly seemed upset at all following the loss, but knew what the cause was:
“It was just a pitch on the inside of the plate, to a real good hitter who’s been hot. You know, you’re not going to win too many games with two hits going into the ninth, either.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Sean Doolittle was warming up in Oakland’s bullpen, which may be a signal that he’ll serve as the interim closer on a more consistent basis.
Something of a touchy subject in the A’s clubhouse, their closer situation is unsettled to put it mildly.
Offseason addition Jim Johnson led the league in saves during the 2013 season, but has quickly become the most hated reliever on the roster by fans,after blowing a number of save opportunities.
Gregerson has five blown saves this season, already, while Doolittle has only one.
Doolittle also sports a 0.85 WHIP, to go along with 26 strikeouts in 20 innings. The stats indicate that he may be the most reliable, and dominant, pitcher available to close out ballgames.
Center fielder Coco Crisp was out of the lineup again, missing his seventh-straight game after colliding into a wall last Wednesday. According to Melvin, Crisp will travel with the team during their upcoming road trip and may return soon.
Officially, Crisp’s injury has been classified as a neck strain, though he’d been down on the warning track for roughly five minutes.
Oakland begins a nine-game road trip in Cleveland Friday before returning home to face the Detroit Tigers for a rematch last year’s American League Division Series.