It seemed like the same old song and dance.
On a lead-off triple from Stephen Vogt, the Oakland Athletics had the go-ahead run on, with none out in the seventh. After an error, a fielder’s choice and a strikeout, they found themselves in a much more precarious situation with runners on first and second and two out.
Just when it looked as if the A’s (29-41) were going to fall flat again, Yonder Alonso sent a looping liner just out of the reach of a leaping Scooter Gennett, who had retreated 80 feet into right-center field.
As the flare sailed inches beyond the glove of the Milwaukee Brewers second baseman, Danny Valencia sprinted home to take the lead and igniting a three-run, two-out rally giving Oakland a 5-3 victory over the Brewers (31-40) Tuesday night.
Manager Bob Melvin said that the approach of his offense had him seeing zeroes — and for good reason. After a fourth shutout inning to start the game, the A’s reached 19 consecutive scoreless frames.
Then, he said, everything changed:
“Early on it felt like the last few days. Then all of a sudden, toward the end of the game, when it was on the line out bats were a lot more intense. A lot more focused.”
Despite the slow start, a patient Oakland offense forced the opposition to work for those zeroes.
Forcing 71 pitches from the right arm of Milwaukee starter Jimmy Nelson (ND, 5-6, 3.80 ERA) in the first three frames, the A’s earned at a crack at major league baseball’s No. 22 relief ERA (4.26) before tagged the Brewers bullpen with three runs and the loss.
“There’s a couple ways to skin a cat, as far as the starter goes. You don’t necessarily have to hit him, if you can get his pitch count up and get him out of the game earlier then you’re accomplishing something as well. That’s something we did today with their starter.”
Though it was Alonso’s single that broke the tie, a triple by Marcus Semien swung the decision.
With a gap-piercing liner past center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Semien drove home the A’s fourth and fifth runs of the game. The fifth proved to be insurance, as the A’s bumped their record to 20-12 when scoring four or more runs.
“We want to do more of that. We want to score more. We just have to stay hungry as an offense, and let our pitchers do what they do. They’re throwing the ball well with nothing to show for it.”
The offense’s barometer, Semien entered the game with a .284 batting average (.361 on-base percentage) in team wins, and a .191 average (.252 on-base percentage) in losses, and that trend continued with his three-hit night.
Sonny Gray (ND, 3-6, 5.20 ERA) went six strong, allowing two runs — one of which was unearned — while striking out seven. As his shortstop said, though, he was not properly rewarded for his work with a win.
Saying he felt “great,” but needed to figure out a way to “get a little deeper in the game,” Gray said the focus was one creating a better mix of pitches to maintain his success into the second and third times through the order:
“We mixed my fastball to both sides of the plate. We really kinda took the approach from the first inning, the first hitter of the game, to start throwing everything there. Not try to hold anything back. Just tried to go after them in a variety of different ways.”
In his continued search of career win No. 1, Daniel Mengden (0-2, 2.25 ERA) will get the starting job in last of four interleague meetings between Oakland and Milwaukee. The Brew Crew counter with Junior Guerra (3-1, 3.81 ERA), in search of a season-series victory.