Late Cleveland eruption buries streaking A’s
Instead, Cleveland (45-37) unleashed a late-inning rally similar to those the A’s (46-39) have used to win 12 of 14, along with more doubles (11) than Oakland had hits (9) en route to a 15-3 stomping, their first win at the Oakland Coliseum since Aug. 22, 2016.
Scoring 10 runs in the final two innings, Cleveland put to bed any hopes that the A’s could come back, the way they have five times during this inspired two-week blitz. Manager Bob Melvin said he saw similar happenings building before his bullpen was bashed:
“We’ve really played well. It’s unfortunate that this game got completely out of hand for us. We felt like we had a chance to come back there. … We have an off-day, it’s probably coming at the right time for us, too.”
Making his first start since allowing a season-high six runs in a season-low three innings Tuesday, Frankie Montas (L, 4-2, 3.83 ERA) was better Sunday, but just marginally.
Walks have been the issue for the hard-throwing righty, with 10 free passes allowed in his past three starts. He cleaned that up successfully Sunday, striking out six without a single walk in 5-2/3 innings.
But a few more pitches out of the zone might have been what he needed. Of seven doubles Montas served up, four came when he had count leverage, including Yonder Alonso‘s sixth-inning leadoff two-bagger off a 1-2 fastball that finished pretty much right down the middle. The double from Alonso accounted for Cleveland’s fifth with one out or fewer over the first six innings.
Melvin said that he is supportive of Montas continuing to attack aggressively in commanding counts, given the his high-90s fastball:
“The one (pitch) he had a little trouble with was the fastball in to the lefties, it was creeping back out over the plate. … We don’t want to see him walk guys so when you have that kind of stuff, if you’re trying to put them away, I get it. Just made a couple bad pitches.”
In total, the visiting nine hammered out 11 doubles, one short of the Cleveland franchise record set in 1996 and the most an A’s team has allowed since at least 1908.
Montas tried to add levity to the historic day, saying with a grin:
“I wish I could have control of that but I cannot control that.”
Montas did settle in, through the finished product does not appear that way. Despite allowing nine hits, including seven doubles, he lasted through 5-2/3 innings with just three runs scoring to his record. He said:
“After the first inning, I was hitting my spots. … I was trying to battle and keep my team in the game.”
Because of its starter’s rebound, Oakland had its chances, but thrice lost base runners; once a product of acceptable aggression and twice of unacceptable over-aggression.
Jed Lowrie, who has been among baseball’s hottest hitters over the past two weeks and its clutchest all season, dug into the box as the tying run, down 5-3, with two out in the seventh. But Mark Canha, who was earlier doubled off on a Lowrie lineout attempting to get his club going, tried to take second on a breaking ball that momentarily eluded Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes. He was gunned down leaving Lowrie in the box.
In similar fashion, Marcus Semien was picked off by Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger (W, 7-3, 3.11 ERA) with one out in the second, though Melvin said after the game that he though Clevinger, who allowed three runs in six inning, balked.
The A’s best opportunity missed though, came in the first when, down 1-0, a Chad Pinder bases-loaded looping liner appeared ticketed for the right field line. But Lonnie Chisenhall, at first fooled by the carry, adjusted late and made a dive parallel to the third base line to end the rally with a forehand snag. What could have given the A’s a healthy lead early, and perhaps rang frustration deeper into the visiting dugout, was nothing more than an inning-ending putout.
After Canha’s base-running boo-boo in the seventh, Cleveland unpacked all its pent-up frustration on the A’s bullpen, sending 13 batters to the plate and scoring eight times in the eighth.
Taking the brunt of the attack was Chris Hatcher, who hit a batter and allowed three hits and four runs without being credited with an out. Josh Lucas got all three outs, eventually and to the sarcastic cheers of the 16,164 in attendance, but gave up four hits ad four runs along the way. Santiago Casilla gave up two in the ninth while Yusmeiro Petit was tagged for two in the seventh.
The sipper defended his bullpen, particularly Hatcher and Lucas, saying that not appearing for an extended period of time is detrimental:
“Today they weren’t as sharp as we’ve seen them before. All of them have pitched really well at times, when you haven’t pitched in six or seven days it’s tough to locate.”
Semien and Khris Davis paced the Oakland offense with two hits and one run apiece. Cleveland, though, had four players with two doubles including Francisco Lindor, who had been the only Cleveland hitter to enjoy any real success in the first two games of the series.
Lindor continued his explosive weekend, going 3-for-4 with two walks, two doubles, a homer (21), two RBIs and four runs scored. Alonso, Oakland’s lone All-Star in 2017, had four hits of his own, including two doubles, and three RBIs, and Edwin Encarnación, who had been held hitless in the first two games of the series, collected one double to go with a solo homer (20) to complete the bludgeoning.
The A’s get a rare home off-day before welcoming the San Diego Padres (37-48) for a quick two-game set. Chris Bassitt (1-3, 2.82 ERA) will test his hand once more in Oakland where he is 0-2 despite having allowed just three earned runs in 11 innings spanning two starts — four unearned runs crossed in those two games. Clayton Richard (7-7, 4.29 ERA) will oppose Bassitt and the A’s. Richard is 9-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 23 career inter-league appearances.
Matt Chapman (right hand) took batting practice on the field prior to Sunday’s game and finished pain-free. Manager Bob Melvin said he will start for Advanced-A Stockton Monday and, barring setback, is expected to be in the A’s lineup Tuesday against the Padres. Chapman (.250/.346/.447) has not appeared in a since June 14 when the pain he has been experiencing for nearly a year grew unbearable. … Trevor Cahill (strained right achilles) will face hitter Tuesday in Arizona. Melvin was unsure if it will be in a simulated game situation or in an extended spring training game, but said the right-hander will throw three innings. If all goes well, Cahill’s nest appearance will be with Triple-A Nashville. Cahill (1-2, 2.77 ERA) last pitched June 2.