With one last chance to clinch a postseason spot in front of the home crowd, the Athletics instead suffered a bad start, a costly error and an inability to find a big hit, falling 5-1 to the Twins Sunday afternoon.
A massive crowd was on hand to celebrate Oakland’s first postseason berth in four years, waiting for the chance to erupt. But the 35,754 never got the chance, watching rally after rally wither at the hands of Minnesota (72-83) and starter Kyle Gibson.
The A’s (94-61) now embark on their final road trip of the regular season needing one more win — or Rays loss — to secure a spot on the playoffs.
Manager Bob Melvin said that every man in the dugout wanted to be the one who came through with the big hit to give the crowd a jolt:
“It’s a little disappointing, everybody here wanted to take care of this today at home. It was a big crowd and if we get another base runner there in the eighth and or ninth they’re going to be into it pretty big time … unfortunately it didn’t happen today.”
In his return from a back injury, Trevor Cahill was unable to find the success he had enjoyed earlier in the season at the Oakland Coliseum.
Cahill (L, 6-4, 3.91 ERA) entered the potential clincher as what may have been Oakland’s top choice to take on the task, having allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in his first 10 home starter (60-1/3 innings). But Melvin and the A’s didn’t get the Cahill who had surrendered just seven earnies in his first nine home starts of 2018, they got the one that was tagged for three his last time out.
The entirety of the blame for Sunday’s loss does not fall at the feet of the veteran starter. But a bad start that blossomed into defeat does.
Before the crowd had a chance to settle in, the home club found itself trailing on a two-run homer (12) by Jake Cave. For the sinker-balling Cahill it was a mistake that dug the early hole, a 94-mph 2-2 sinker left at the thigh and right down the middle.
Melvin said that everything looked positive from his starter, making his first start in two weeks. Cahill agreed:
“Stuff was a lot better, I was able to command for the most part. Just couldn’t get that out when I had to. I just couldn’t put them away, couldn’t throw that curveball in the dirt when I wanted to. I’d rather throw it for a strike than walk guys, so I’ll take that.”
About the wasted chance to clinch at home, Cahill said it was a bummer:
“I think we put ourselves in a good spot but it’s something to look forward to tomorrow, I guess.”
The Oakland offense tried to get its starter back into the game in the bottom-half, but a pair of singles were separated by a double-play grounder off the bat of Matt Chapman, who had a forgettable day.
Not only did the A’s stud third baseman ground into a pair or rally-killing double plays, he paved the way for Minnesota to seize complete control with his 19th error of the season. After scooping what should have been an inning-ending double play ball, the Gold Glove hopeful third baseman slung his feed throw into right field. Like Oakland has done so effectively of late, the Twins made the mistake hurt turning it into a three-run fourth inning that Cahill could not survive.
“I just think that I was worried about the catch and I didn’t pick up my target. I think I had a little more time. I maybe rushed the throw because I wanted to turn a double play. … I just kind of knew that was my fault and then three runs score, so it doesn’t really feel good, but I kind of took us out of the game right there.”
Cahill was lifted after 3-1/3 innings of work having allowed five hits and five runs (three earned).
The bullpen was near flawless from there, holding Minnesota to three hits over 5-2/3 innings of scoreless relief. But insurmountable damage had already been done and Oakland could muster nothing aside from a second-inning solo homer (28) by Matt Olson.
While a surprising Chapman defensive miscue cost the A’s, in a reversal of fortunes, it was the visiting third baseman that made play after play to prevent runs.
Ehire Adrianza made a pair of diving stops down the line to prevent Oakland hits, including one to turn what would have been a two-run double by Chapman in the fifth into an inning-ending double play.
Chapman called the play, one he has become known for making, a microcosm of the afternoon:
“Great play. That kind of just describes what happened today. They made the plays they needed to when they needed to, and we didn’t.”
Gibson (W, 9-13, 3.68 ERA) rode the Twins solid defensive effort to 7-1/3 innings of seven-hit, one-run ball, firing 114 pitches. He wasn’t without challenges, offering just two perfect innings, but kept a powerful Oakland offense on the ground holding it hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Chapman called it disappointing that the A’s couldn’t lock down their playoff spot at home, but said they would be ready to get it down when they pick things back up Monday. Melvin added:
“We would have loved to have done it at home. … Any time you have an opportunity to get to the postseason, especially for a team that was not expected to be where we are right now, it will be pretty fulfilling wherever we potentially do it.”
The Rays kept their fading chances of catching the A’s alive, claiming a 5-2 victory in Toronto behind ace and Cy Young front-runner Blake Snell. … With a 6-2 sweeping win over the Angels, along with Oakland’s loss, the Astros shrunk their magic number to clinch the American League West to three. … Despite their loss the A’s did not lose ground in the race for home field advantage in the winner-take-all Wild Card game as the Yankees suffered their own defeat, 6-3 to the Orioles.
As they continue their pursuit of home field advantage in the Wild Card game, the A’s will send Daniel Mengden (7-6, 4.00 ERA) to the mound — without an opener — against James Paxton (11-6, 3.86 ERA) and the Mariners (85-70) in Seattle.
Jonathan Lucroy caught Jake Cave stealing in the eighth inning. It was Lucroy’s 79th assist of the season, breaking Jim Essian’s Oakland franchise record for assists in a season by a catcher (78, 1978). … Joe Mauer singled in the first and fifth. The second allowed the Minnesota native to reach base safely for the 3,072nd time, matching Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew for most in Twins history.