During the dog days of a rebuilding season, one of the nice things to see from your young team is perseverance. On Friday night, the Oakland A’s stayed tough after blowing an early lead, keeping the game close enough to mount their own late comeback and steal a 5-4 victory from the Orioles.
Adam Jones staked Baltimore to an early lead, with a solo homer in the 2nd and a run-scoring double play in the 4th. A’s starter Paul Blackburn had been cruising until that 4th frame, and after getting out of one jam with Jones’ double play he created another one by loading the bases on a single and two walks. Fortunately, he bore down and got Seth Smith to ground out to escape the second jam. 2-0 Orioles
In the bottom of the 4th, Oakland’s lineup finally woke up. Jed Lowrie led off by lining a double into the left-center gap, and Khris Davis followed with another into the RF corner to drive him in. Khrush’s double looked like a lazy routine fly off the bat, but somehow it carried all the way to the warning track and one-hopped the wall for extra bases. Dude has pop.
Two batters later, the A’s grabbed the lead.
That’s rookie Matt Olson, taking a monster swing and getting every last bit of the ball. When he was recalled the other day for his full MLB chance, I offered the comp of Brandon Moss with a better glove. Well, there’s the power. Olson now has five homers this year in 72 plate appearances, good for a 107 wRC+ despite his .206 average. 3-2 A’s
Unfortunately, the lead didn’t hold. Blackburn got into trouble again in the 5th, and this time All-Star Jonathan Schoop belted a two-run double to put Baltimore back on top. Blackburn eventually gave way to the bullpen in the 6th inning. 4-3 Orioles
And then, something happened. Or rather, nothing happened. Oakland’s bullpen didn’t just hold the Orioles in check the rest of the way; they didn’t allow a single baserunner. Baltimore brought 10 more batters to the plate, and the A’s retired all of them — four by Simon Castro, three by Santiago Casilla, and three by Blake Treinen. The game remained within reach, and it was up to the lineup to scratch back on top.
Oakland got a runner on base in each of the 6th and 7th frames, but double plays squashed both potential rallies. In the 8th, Orioles setup man Brad Brach came on to face the top of the order, with superstar closer Zach Britton lurking for the 9th.
The A’s didn’t wait around for Britton, though. Matt Joyce ripped a double off the wall in RF to lead off against Brach, and Marcus Semien followed with a single. Next up was Lowrie, who blasted the ball so well to CF that it bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Joyce scored the tying run, but Semien was forced to wait at third base. 4-4 tie
Despite getting the bad hop on Lowrie’s hit, which may have scored Semien had it stayed in the park, the A’s were still in great position with runners on second and third and nobody out. Khrush took the first hacks, but his fly ball didn’t go far enough to bring home Semien. Next up was Chad Pinder, who lofted a towering fly down the line behind first base. Three Orioles converged, and Chris Davis … dropped it. The ball landed foul, so no damage was done, but Baltimore had missed out on a crucial out and Pinder had new life. He did not squander the opportunity.
Protect the plate on an 0-2 count, put the ball in play, and watch that runner trot home from third. 5-4 A’s
Again, I can’t stress this enough, but Oakland’s closer came in and tossed a 1-2-3 inning in the 9th to seal a one-run victory. That happened, and there’s video evidence to prove it. Thank you, Blake Treinen, and your 99 mph sinker.
This wasn’t a perfect game by the young A’s, but they did enough to win. Paul Blackburn found himself in several jams but never let the Orioles blow it open; Oakland’s lineup struck out a dozen times, at least once by every hitter, but half of their 10 hits went for extra bases; the defense quietly did its job, while the opponents’ fell apart for a change; and they capitalized on what proved to be a game-changing mistake by the other side. A few stray notes:
- Matt Olson has some reach at 1B. He’s four inches taller than Yonder Alonso, and it shows when he’s receiving throws. He also demonstrated his slick fielding in this one, calmly gathering a ground ball and delivering a perfect throw to second to start a double play.
- Matt Chapman got the chance to start a 5-4-3 double play, and his throw to second was visibly more reasonable in the velocity department. It looked like he dialed it back a bit to fit the situation, rather than winging a 100 mph fastball into RF. It worked and the GIDP went perfectly. (He also received Olson’s throw in the other, aforementioned GIDP, then flipped it back to Olson to easily complete the play. In other words, he played the role of the SS making the turn on a double play.)
- Khris Davis outplayed Chris Davis.
- One big moment for Paul Blackburn came on a strikeout of Adam Jones in the 5th. On the heels of blowing the lead to Schoop, Blackburn took an eight-pitch battle with Jones to a full count and then jammed him with a fastball to induce the swing-and-miss.
These two teams pick up again on Saturday, with Sean Manaea taking on Dylan Bundy at 6:05 p.m.