BY RYAN LEONG
It’s been a long season for the A’s and although more games have been lost than won, the 2017 squad has at least made it entertaining. On Wednesday, after leading by a run in the third, the A’s came back from a 5-2 deficit, but in the end, the Royals outlasted the Athletics 7-6.
Wednesday’s homestand finale was a struggle for rookie Paul Blackburn in the early innings. He allowed a run in the top of the first on an RBI single by Mike Moustakas, but in the third he got out of a bases loaded situation with nobody out.
As a reward for his Houdini act, with a runner on first, Marcus Semien homered over the left field out of town scoreboard to give the A’s a 2-1 lead. But in the top of the fourth, the Royals tied the game at 2-2. Alcides Escobar bunted to third baseman Matt Chapman. Chapman’s throw was late but it was also wild, out of the reach of first baseman Ryan Healy and down the vast expanse of right field foul territory allowing Escobar to make it to third. He scored on a Drew Butera single through the drawn in infield.
But the Royals weren’t done. Lorenzo Cain followed with an impressive home run to center field. According to Statcast it was estimated at 421 feet with an exit velocity of 106 mph and a 27 degree launch angle.
Blackburn had the shortest outing of his rookie campaign lasting only four innings allowing eight hits and four runs.
“For me the biggest thing is going deep into the game and putting the team in the best situation to win,” Blackburn said. “I didn’t do that today. I’ve just got to get back to work and get better for my next one.” It has now been nearly a year since an A’s starting pitcher authored a complete game, which was last accomplished on August 19, 2016, a span of 160 games which is an ongoing franchise record.
New closer Blake Treinan, brought into a 6-6 tie in the top of the 9th, allowed the go-ahead RBI single to Alex Gordon as the A’s closed out a nine game homestand with a disappointing 3-6 record. Despite the loss, the glass was still half-full according to manager Bob Melvin.
“It was just an ugly game all the way around,” Melvin said. “There was no pace to it and just seemed like one of those games that just was blah and we’re down. All of the sudden, Chapman hits a two-run homer and now we’re right back in the game so we continue to get good at-bats, (Ryon) Healy hustles down the first base line. We got the winning run at the plate in the ninth inning. It is a results based industry and you want to win but the fact that you keep battling and what was early on not a really good game for us, does have a little value.”
Tuesday night’s game included a six run eighth inning to overcome an 8-4 deficit. The Royals had scored five times in the top of the frame but the A’s got clutch hits from Healy, Matt Olson, Marcus Semien, and an RBI double from Matt Joyce to come back and win it 10-8.
With so many young players on the roster, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Athletics are simply going through their growing pains and it’s going to take at least a few years before the team is in contention again. Rookie Matt Chapman continues to impress both with his bat and his glove as the third baseman playing in just his 43th game homered for the 9th time in only 148 at-bats.
A run scoring single in the fifth from Alex Gordon made it a 5-2 Kansas City lead.
Once again the A’s came back. After failing to score in the fourth, they got within a run as rookie Dustin Garneau walked and Rajai Davis doubled to right putting runners at second and third. Jed Lowrie delivered a single to center scoring both runners and it was 5-4.
The Royals added an insurance run on an RBI single by Eric Hosmer in the 8th.
But once again the A’s would not give in and Chapman crushed a Brandon Maurer 97 mph fastball off the camera platform in deep left center. Statcast computed the Chapman homer at 418 ft. with an exit velocity of 103 mph and a launch angle of 29 degrees.
In addition to the loss, the A’s also set a new dubious record, striking out at least 10 times for the 60th game, breaking the record set in 2012. To be specific, the Athletics fanned 14 times against Royals pitching with eight of those K’s courtesy of starting pitcher Danny Duffy.
“There are a lot of losses we’ve had where we’ve done some good things,” Semien said. “Bob said it right, you want to win every game. We just want to build off the losses and the things we’ve done to win games we want to continue to do too.”
After an off day tomorrow, the A’s will head to Houston for a weekend series starting on Friday against the division leading Astros. Sean Manaea (8-7, 4.59 ERA) faces 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel (10-2, 2.77 ERA) in the opener.
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.