A’s bullpen, Semien grand slam finish off Giants

In a Monday night tussle featuring two of baseball’s worst offenses, it was the two bottom-10 pitching staffs that finished bumped and bruised.

Part 1 of the 2017 Battle of the Bay was every bit an offensive back-and-forth battle, one that saw the Athletics (47-59) escape with a 8-5 win, and San Francisco fall deeper into its franchise-worst hole.

In the midst of a combined 23-hit barrage, though, it was the Oakland bullpen that again slammed the opposition’s brakes, holding the Giants (40-67) scoreless on three hits over the final 2-2/3. By contrast, Giant relievers served up five hits and six runs in 3 frames.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Of the eight outs the A’s bullpen was asked to get, none was bigger than the one given to Liam Hendriks. Nursing a 6-5 lead in the seventh, he entered to face Buster Posey with runners on the corners and two outs. After pumping six-straight mid-90s fastballs, Hendriks spun in an 87-mph slider getting the National League’s fifth-leading hitter waving to strand the tying and go-ahead runs.

The Aussie fed off the crowd of more than 38,000, coming off the mound as fiery as every, pumping his fists:

“I’m known to do a little fist pumping here and there. It’s always good when you’re brought into a situation like that and you succeed. It’s definitely an adrenaline rush, it’s something that I embrace and I let it flow out a little bit sometimes.”

When the dust settled and Blake Treinen (S, 4, 4.79 ERA) had converted his first save with the A’s, the Oakland relief corps pushed its active scoreless streak to 19-2/3 innings. A run manager Bob Melvin said is increasingly impressive given the fact that the group has been rebuilt. Of that particular at-bat, the skipper said:

“There’s no where to go right there, you’ve got to go after him. He’s one of the best hitter in baseball and he’s having a good game leading up to that point. … It’s a situation we don’t want to be in with Posey up at the plate, that’s for sure.”

The Giants bullpen was faced with a similar test, and that group failed.

After a bout of wildness forced Josh Osich (L, 3-2, 5.85 ERA) from the fray, George Kontos was tabbed to maintain a one-run lead with one out and the bases loaded. Marcus Semien, a San Francisco native, delivered the biggest blow of the game, smashing a 1-1 center-cut 91-mph cookie over the wall in center field. The shortstop reflected on his momentous swing:

“A lot of Giants game and a lot of A’s games that my parents and my grandparents took me to as a kid. To be able to hit a grand slam — you don’t have a lot of grand slams in your career, so for it to be in this series it’s pretty cool.”

To be exact, this was the second grand slam of Semien’s career, his previous coming on April 22, 2014 as a member of the Chicago White Sox.

Semien, who added a single and second run scored, wasn’t the only Athletic to unleash the lumber. Jed Lowrie finished 3-for-4 with an RBI. Matt Joyce added two hits, two walks and three runs scored.  And Ryon Healy‘s second of two hits drove in a pair of insurance runs in the eighth.

Said Melvin:

“Once you go from a one-run lead to a three- run lead, at least you have a little margin for error. … That was a big hit.”

He added:

“It seems like, in the biggest at-bats, he really fights hard and comes up with good at-bats.”

Combined, only four of the 18 starers finished hitless, fewer than the number of players (7) who collected multiple hits. Included in the latter was Giants rookie Carlos Moncrief, who chopped an infield RBI single in the fourth to tally his first big league hit and RBI, and added a double in the seventh.

Oakland starter Paul Blackburn was able to largely wiggle in and out of jams, scattering eight hits but giving up five runs while walking one and striking out four.

Melvin said it was once again a battle, but was impressed with the rookie’s poise and ability to once again pitch through the sixth and give the club a chance to win. Blackburn (W, 2-1, 3.05 ERA) concurred:

“I thought I pitched well, there was a couple things here and there but all-in-all I’m happy with it. We got the win, and that’s all that really matters.”

San Francisco starter Matt Cain (ND, 3-9, 5.37) battled as well, lasting 5 overworked frames. Despite allowing 10 base runners — seven hits and three walks — while striking out just one, he left his team a 3-2 lead.

On deck

The Battle of the Bay continues Tuesday evening, with the A’s looking to continue a three-game winning streak and hand the Giants a fourth-straight loss. Oakland will send Sean Manaea (8-5, 3.82 ERA) to the bump opposed by Jeff Samardzija (5-11, 4.85 ERA).

Notes

Prior to the 1 p.m. deadline, the A’s traded Sonny Gray (6-5, 3.43 ERA) to the New York Yankees in exchange for a trio of top prospects. Oakland received outfielder Dustin Fowler, shortstop Jorge Mateo and pitcher James Kaprielian. The team expects Fowler to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster next season. … Adam Rosales was also traded, sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league pitcher Jeferson Mejia. The 6-foot-7 reliever brings a 13-14 career and 4.67 ERA in 79 career appearances in A-Ball. … With the departures of Gray and Rosales, the A’s activated Chad Pinder (left hamstring) from the 10-day disabled list and re-called Michael Brady from Triple-A Nashville. Pinder (.234/.289/.490) has not played in the big leagues since June 23. Brady (0-0, 3.18 ERA) last appeared in the majors on July 17.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.