Royals’ 9th-inning rally fends off A’s comeback

The Athletics and Royals packed the Oakland Coliseum base paths like a Bay Area highway Wednesday afternoon.

Oakland (53-68) and Kansas City (61-59) combined to put 35 runners on base, as the Royals overcame another A’s eighth-inning rally by pushing across the deciding 13th run of the game in the ninth.

Losing 7-6, the A’s also set a dubious mark, striking out 10 or more times for the 60th time this season — a franchise record — finishing with 14 whiffs.

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

The two teams combined to strike out 21 times. They also stranded a total of 21 runners on base — 13 in scoring position — and recorded just four perfect half-innings. Said manager Bob Melvin:

“It just was an ugly game all the way around. There was no pace to the game, it just seemed like one of those games that was just blah.”

One night after being clobbered for a pair of home runs in a winning effort, Blake Treinen was saddled with a loss, letting Brandon Maurer (W, 2-6, 6.19 ERA) off the hook. In a game full of big hits, Alex Gordon‘s RBI single in the ninth served as the deciding blow.

Treinen (L, 1-3, 4.77 ERA) needed 14 pitches, one night after throwing 33 — a five-out appearance that, under most circumstances, would have rendered him unavailable one day later. Said Melvin:

“I really didn’t want to have to use him unless it was that situation — well, hopefully if it was a save — but he said he was good for one inning and once we got to a tied game, that’s our closer.”

Gordon’s game-winner was the sixth hit in 15 chances with a runner in scoring position for the Royals, a stark contrast from the 1-for-9 performance by the Oakland bats.

Rookie hurler Paul Blackburn suffered the worst start of his young big league career, unable to survive the fifth for the first time in nine tries while allowing four runs to cross — one short of his career-worst. But things could have been much worse.

Of his four frames, Blackburn (ND, 3-1, 3.46 ERA) worked his way through just one clean inning, facing traffic in every other. And not minimal traffic, 101-South-in-rush-hour traffic. The Royals got four runners on in the first, and were held to a single tally. They got three on in the third, and couldn’t get anything.

They finally cashed in in the fourth, parlaying their four runners into three runs.

Blackburn said, against this potent offense, he needed to be on, but wasn’t:

“It’s tough. I fall behind every batter, that’s on me, I’ve got to do better than that. It’s not ideal for our offense, getting in the flow of things, I’ve got to be better.”

A pitcher who has excelled at escaping jams has been unable to do so in his past two starts, giving up eight scores on 9-2/3 innings pitched (7.45 ERA). That, he said, won’t continue, though. The real concern, according to the young hurler, was his inability to control the game as it unfolded:

“Hits are going to happen, I’m aware of that. Just, the pace today, on my end, wasn’t good.”

The Royal rally got a kick start, a throwing error from third baseman Matt Chapman giving Alcides Escobar two free bases to go with his infield single. Blackburn was once again one pitch from avoiding the back-breaker, but Lorenzo Cain delivered the blow which had earlier eluded Kansas City — a two-run homer (13).

The swing came at a most inopportune time for the A’s, one half-inning after a Marcus Semien two-run home run (5) gave the A’s a 2-1 lead. His mate on the left side of the infield, Chapman, accomplished a similar feat, swatting a two-run dinger (9) to tie the affair in the eighth, getting his starter off the hook.

Blackburn finished his 4 innings of work allowing eight hits, three walks and four runs allowed while striking out two.

Much like his Oakland opposition, Royals starter Danny Duffy (ND, 7-8, 3.82 ERA) limited the damage delivered by the eight base runners — six hits and two walks — he faced. In 5 innings, the lefty allowed four runs while striking out eight.

The A’s lone hit with a runner in scoring position came off the at of Jed Lowrie, who is suddenly red-hot batting .323 (20-for-62) over his last 16 games. His second hit of the game, to go with a first-inning single, knocked in a par in the fifth, the only A’s run-scoring hit that stayed in the park.

In an afternoon full of base runners, Escobar was the only man to reach four times, going 3-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.

A loss may be a loss, but for the skipper of a young and developing team, seeing the fight is something that is a definite positive:

“It is a results-based industry, and you want to win, but the fact that you keep battling in what was early on not a really good game for us, does have a little value.”

On deck

The A’s get a day off before picking things back up in Houston on Friday. The American League-leading Astros (73-46) have been on a slide recently, dropping 12 of their last 17, but boast a 10-2 record against Oakland this season. Sean Manaea (8-7, 4.59 ERA) is Friday’s scheduled starter. He is 0-2, having surrendered 18 runs (13 earned) in 6-2/3 innings pitched (17.55 ERA), over his past three starts, allowing a .512 batting average against.

Notes

The A’s made a second waiver move in as many days, acquiring lefty hurler Sam Moll from the Rockies for a player to be named later or cash considerations. In 44 games with Triple-A Albuquerque this season, Moll went 3-2 with a 4.18 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, never appearing in a big league game with Colorado. To make room for Moll on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated Zach Neal for assignment. Neal did not factor into the outcome in six appearances with the A’s this season, posting a 7.98 ERA — he is 3-7 with a 4.99 ERA in Nashville. … Chris Hatcher (0-1, 4.66 ERA with the Dodgers), acquired Tuesday, arrived in Oakland prior to Wednesday’s game. To make room for him on the 25-man roster, Oakland optioned right-hander Josh Smith (2-1, 4.89 ERA) to Triple-A Nashville. Hatcher made his A’s debut Wednesday, tossing a perfect sixth.


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.