BY RYAN LEONG
The A’s are rebuilding for the future again because they’re not in contention.
But still, the Athletics are an exciting ballclub because of their young talent with rookies like Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto.
While he’s rumored to be on the trading block, Yonder Alonso for the time being remains dressed in green and gold having a career year. An All-Star for the first time, Alonso’s batting average is down to .268 but was batting over .300 until the last month. Alonso also has 21 homers and 44 RBI. Khris Davis leads the team with 27 homers and 65 runs batted in but only a .247 average.
That’s ok because he represents a legitimate power threat in the lineup and proved it in the first inning with a mammoth two-run blast to center off the fascade just below the luxury suites. Unfortunately, the Rays scored two runs in the ninth to beat the A’s, 4-3.
“We can take away some stuff from that game but we’re able to battle and compete and give ourselves a chance to win,” said third baseman Matt Chapman. “But that’s baseball and that’s the way it goes. We can take the positives and keep pushing forward.”
Although the A’s have the second worst record in the American League, they’re only ten games under .500 at 42-52. An indication of their competitiveness are home sweeps against the Yankees in a four game series and a three-game set vs. the Indians on this homestand. They also won three of four vs. the Red Sox. Their problem continues to be their subpar 15-29 away record which is the fewest road wins in the junior circuit.
Sean Manaea leads the rotation with eight wins and Sonny Gray is 3-1 over his last four stats. 36-year old veteran Chris Smith pitched a career-high seven innings for his first win but unfortunately got a no-decision. Until this season, Smith was a career relief pitcher.
“He just keeps you off balance,” said manager Bob Melvin of Smith’s performance on the mound. “He’s not throwing 95 but he’s on the corners, reads swings well, isn’t afraid to throw his changeup on any count. Had just a good enough breaking ball to keep guys in between. He pitched really well and gave us seven innings which was terrific.”
Newly acquired Blake Treinan who was part of the five player deal for relivers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson tossed a scoreless eighth.
Santiago Casilla came on in the ninth and thanks to a great defensive stop by Chapman, he was able to get the first two outs. But that final out was elusive as Casilla gave up a two out single to Wilson Ramos. Casilla uncorked a wild pitch allowing pinch runner Mallex Smith to advance to second. Casilla then walked Brad Miller. Smith stole third and scored the tying run on a single to right by Adeiny Hechavarria. On that play, Miller advanced to third. The inning wasn’t finished as Shane Peterson lined a single to right scoring Miller making it a 4-3 Rays lead sending Casilla to the showers.
“It was tough,” Melvin said. “As the game went along, a lot of good things happened. Certainly Chris Smith was terrific going seven innings like that. Treinan had a good eighth and then two outs in the ninth and just didn’t finish it off but you’ve got to move on, you’re going to have games like that.”
Tuesday night was a decent crowd of 15,231 thanks to the annual Root Beer Float Day. Through sales of floats, autographs, and personal photos with players and local celebrities, the Athletics raised money to benefit the juvenile diabetes foundation.
Ryan Leong is a San Francisco native and covers all Bay Area sports teams as a correspondent for ESPN radio and wire services. He is a former sports anchor for KCBS and has reported on over 3,600 live games since 1998.