Forty-four minutes. Ten hits. Eleven runs. And that was a single inning.
A game once riddled with hope for journeyman starter Chris Smith, who for the second time this season handed his bullpen a lead in search of his first big league win since 2008 only to watch hope evaporate, offered instead a single-inning roller coaster of emotions.
Said Smith (ND, 0-2, 5.26 ERA):
“That was pretty much what it was: a very, very good roller coaster.”
“Winning would be nice, but for the team to win like that — that first inning probably put everybody in a hole, to finish like that kinda boosted them, gave everybody a little energy, a little pep in their step going into tomorrow.”
The first-inning hole his team was forced to emerge from was one of his own creation. Allowing the first four batters he faced to reach, Smith had surrendered three runs before ever recording an out. He rallied, though, coaxing a fly-out from Kansas City home run leader Mike Moustakas and finishing with a strike-’em-out throw-’em-out double play.
His night, however, was not put back on track by the fly-out fastball to Moustakas, nor was it the fastball that got Damian Moss looking. It was a heater, he said, that went for a ball but nailed catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s location.
From there, it was easy sailing, as he allowed just one additional hit through his 5-1/3 innings of work. About the early trouble, he jested:
“Four batters? It seemed like forever. … I might have blacked out, I don’t even know what happened.”
“That first inning took everything to get through. Obviously it costed pitches, for the sixth inning, that looking back now I needed.”
Manager Bob Melvin offered his own glowing report of the 36-year-old’s fight:
“We’ve said a couple times this year, in the first inning, can you envision him being out there in the sixth inning, and probably not. But this guy’s got a lot of moxie. We need to get him a win.”
He was relieved by Daniel Coulombe, Oakland’s lone southpaw reliever, who was tasked with navigating the lefty-heavy heart of the Royals batting order. Getting two in the sixth, then coming back for two in the seventh, Coulombe did exactly that. Santiago Casilla (BS, 7, 4.47 ERA) and Blake Treinen (W, 1-2, 4.70 ERA) were not able to do the same, serving up a combined four hits — three homers — and five runs to cost Smith the win.
As it seems so many of Oakland’s recent rallies have, the A’s eighth-inning attack was initiated by a double from the major league leader, Jed Lowrie (39). After three straight singles, followed by back-to-back strikeouts, Melvin responded to a Royals pitching change, bring in righty Rajai Davis to replace lefty Boog Powell.
In an age of left-right match-ups, Kansas City skipper Ned Yost chose to walk Rajai, instead having lefty Mike Minor face lefty Matt Joyce, who had homered (17) in the first inning — his fourth lead-off homer this season — but brought a career .188 average against left-handers.
“I kinda saw the cards unfolding. I went over to Bushy (hitting coach Darren Bush) and talked to him, came up with a good approach. … Fortunately, I stayed in the zone with the first pitch, he threw the cutter-slider — I think in situations like that, bases loaded, pitchers kinda have to come to the hitter.”
After letting the breaking ball pass, Joyce hammered a 1-0 fastball off the out-town-scoreboard in left field, clearing the bases with a three-run, go-ahead double. Marcus Semien followed with an RBI single for some insurance, giving each of the A’s top six hitter in the order two hits apiece, including Khris Davis (33) and Matt Olson (8), who each homered.
Joyce said he was proud of his team, calling the come back one of the craziest he had ever seen:
“It’s really easy to just roll over and give that game away. … We did a great job, did a great job coming back there. It was a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Melvin said it is a the type of battle he hopes to cultivate from this young team:
“That’s the type of culture we want to set with these guys: we’re going to come back, no matter what, we’re going to fight — if we go down, we go down bleeding.”
The A’s close their three-team, nine-day home stand with a chance at a 4-5 record. They will send Paul Blackburn (3-1, 3.02 ERA) to the mound for the Wednesday matinee. Yost and the Royals will counter with Danny Duffy (7-8, 3.68 ERA).
The A’s acquired relief pitcher Chris Hatcher from the Dodgers. Hatcher, 32, appeared in 26 games for Los Angeles, going 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA, before being placed on the disabled list with thoracic inflammation. He went 0-0 with a 1.50 ERA in five minor league rehab outings. He enjoyed his highest level if big league success in 2014, with the Miami Marlins, and 2015, with the Dodger, going 3-8 with a 3.51 ERA. … The A’s announced plans to honor former pitcher, Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, renaming the Oakland Coliseum D Gate in his honor. The dedication ceremony will take place on Friday, Aug. 25, at 4 p.m.