Bullpen, four-run first inning enough to seal A’s win

It wasn’t pretty. But with a 4-3 victory Thursday afternoon, the Athletics brought to a close their five-game losing streak at the Oakland Coliseum.

With Andrew Triggs and Brett Anderson landing on the disabled list in the past week, and Kendall Graveman having yet to serve his mandatory 10 days in the minor leagues after being optioned last Thursday, reliever Josh Lucas made his first start since 2013.

Melvin was hoping for three innings from his spot starter, but got just two. The Oakland skipper also got more offense than his A’s (26-24) had given him at home of late, in the form of four first-inning runs against infamous A’s-killer Félix Hernández to earn a sweep-denying victory over the Mariners (29-20).

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

Melvin may not have gotten the three he was hoping for from Lucas, but with five from the duo of Chris Hatcher and Yusmeiro Petit (W, 2-1, 3.38 ERA) the skipper was able to escape with a win using one fewer man than had planned. Petit, who was scoreless through the fifth, sixth and seventh to earn the win, said the entire bullpen is ready to do whatever is needed from them to win:

“We’re working hard, we’re working everyday for that moment when we need to help the team.”

Lucas added:

“Everyone in the ‘pen is shoving right now, so we just gotta keep it rolling.”

With a planned bullpen day, it is hard to imagine a worse start for Melvin and the A’s. Lucas, making his first start as a big leaguer, allowed a pair of singles to start things, then made matters worse walking Mitch Haniger to load the bases for Nelson Cruz, who came in with 15 career homers in Oakland.

But the first inning could hardly have ended any better for the green and gold.

Lucas coaxed a double play from Cruz and escaped the first with a single run. In the bottom half, the Oakland offense staged an uprising. After scoring just two runs in the first two games of the series, A’s hitters tagged Hernández (L, 5-4, 5.58 ERA) — who entered the game with a 2.64 ERA in 48 lifetime starts against Oakland — with four hits and four runs in the first.

Said Melvin:

“You’re looking at bases loaded right there, nobody out and Nelson Cruz at the plate. You’re thinking, if you can get out of it with two, let alone just one — then you score four right after that, quick swing and a big swing as far as momentum went.”

Hernández nearly escaped the threat, like Lucas, holding the A’s to a single run. But Oakland delivered where the Mariners couldn’t, getting a booming, two-out, two-run double off the right-center wall from Stephen Piscotty, who was brought home with an opposite-field single by Dustin Fowler.

Fowler said it was nice to get on the board with a crooked number early:

“These last two days, we’ve kinda been quiet with the bats so it’s nice to come out hot like we did. We tacked on the [two-out] runs and that paid off in the end.”

Lucas got another double play in the second. But after walking Daniel Vogelbach to lead off the frame, the Mariners got one more run on a David Freitas two-out RBI single, all the while driving up the pitch count of the reliever-turned-starter. Lucas lasted just two innings and 52 pitches, surrendering three hits, three walks and two runs. He also struck out one.

Lucas’ departure triggered an expected parade of Oakland relievers. Hatcher allowed two hits in two scoreless, striking out one, and Petit did him one better, tossing three scoreless with two hits and four strikeouts.

Said Lucas:

“I tried to keep it as much of a relief feel as possible. I’m not happy with it but it could have been worse, we got the win and that’s all that matters.”

The A’s bullpen needed to be dominant, as Hernández reverted to form by holding Oakland to a single hit over his final five innings. Hernández finished his afternoon striking out two and walking one, alongside five hits and four runs allowed. All told, only Fowler reached after the A’s first-inning attack, singling in the fourth.

Rookie setup man Lou Trivino faced some traffic in the eighth, surrendering two hits and a walk. He got a boost from Matt Chapman, who looked for a triple play with a casual backhand scoop on a Haniger chopper up the third base line. Chapman stepped on third before firing to second. But with his speed, Haniger beat out the play at first, forcing the A’s to settle for their fifth double play on the afternoon.

Blake Treinen (S, 11, 1.08 ERA) was called upon after a Cruz single and served up and RBI double to Kyle Seager. The closer escaped further damage in the eighth, and zipped through a 1-2-3 ninth, including a pair of strikeouts, to secure the win.

On Deck

The A’s bid farewell to the Mariners and the AL West, against whom Oakland is now 10-19 this season, and open a three-game interleague set with the Arizona Diamondbacks (25-24). Sean Manaea (5-4, 2.71 ERA) gets the ball for Friday’s series opener looking to correct his May struggles. After posting a 5-1 record and 1.00 ERA in April, Manaea has allowed four runs in each of his four May starts never getting an out in the seventh. He will match up with lefty Patrick Corbin (4-1, 2.60 ERA), who will be facing the A’s for the first time in his six-year career.

Notes

Prior to the game, the Chicago White Sox claimed catcher Dustin Garneau off waivers from the A’s. Garneau appeared in 19 games with Oakland after being claimed off waivers from the Rockies last season, slashing .159/.288/.250 with one homer and three RBIs. The 30-year-old backstop is slashing .208/.263/.333 with two homers and nine RBIs in 22 games with Triple-A Nashville this season. … With their _ runs Thursday, the A’s snapped a streak of seven consecutive home games with two or fewer runs scored. The streak matched the second-longest in franchise history, set in 1908. The longest such streak remains at eight games, set in 1917. … Shortstop Marcus Semien scored his team-leading 35th run in the A’s first-inning rally. Oakland is now 17-8 in games when Semien scores at least one run, and 7-1 when he scores twice or more.


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.