In a sloppy game where neither team played aesthetically pleasing baseball, the Kansas City Royals came out on top thanks to some late inning mishaps by the Oakland Athletics, scoring the go-ahead run with two outs in the eighth for a 4-3 win.
Ryan Cook took the loss, but there was plenty of blame to go around. Jerry Blevins gave up the tying run in the seventh after walking the first batter he faced, and Adam Rosales had a costly error in the eighth that led to the Kansas City rally.
Starting pitcher Jarrod Parker looked like he’d get his seventh win of the season when he handed the ball off to Bob Melvin with a one-run lead. The right-hander put in an economical performance, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits, with four strikeouts and three walks.
Oakland had initial success against Royals starter Ervin Santana,but the opportunities dwindled as the game went on.
The A’s tested the arms of Kansas City’s outfield consistently in the series opener with aggressive baserunning, and that continued early in the game Saturday afternoon.
After Josh Donaldson walked and Seth Smith singled with one out in the top of the second, Josh Reddick hit a shallow line drive to center field, and Donaldson never slowed down and scored easily from second when Jarrod Dyson’s throw from center field went off target, and Oakland had an early 1-0 lead. Adam Rosales hit a grounder to third in the next at-bat, and Mike Moustakas made the throw home to prevent Smith from scoring, followed by Eric Sogard grounding out to end the inning.
The top of the order came up in the top of the third and continued to make contact against Santana. John Jaso hit a one-out single and Yoenis Cespedes drew a walk to put two men on, and after a strikeout by Brandon Moss, Donaldson got his 100th hit of the season on a blooper over the head of first basemen Eric Hosmer that dropped in for an RBI single in shallow right field to give the A’s a 2-0 lead.
With the hit, Donaldson became the first Athletics player since Miguel Tejada in 2002 to reach 100 hits before the All-Star break. Tejada was in attendance to witness it, albeit as the starting second basemen of the Royals, and he gave a glowing review of Donaldson to SF Chronicle A’s beat reporter Susan Slusser before the game.
The Royals answered with a run in the third, made possible by Parker’s second error of the day. Dyson singled to lead things off, and he’d steal second with Alex Gordon at the plate. Gordon drew a walk, and following a pop fly by Hosmer for out number one, Parker committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, allowing both runners to advance. Dyson would score on a ground out by Billy Butler in the next at-bat before Parker got Salvador Perez to fly out to end the inning.
Parker’s first error came in the first inning as he nonchalantly tried to field a short grounder and couldn’t grab the ball cleanly. It looked as if he may have been trying to favor his hamstring as he was slow to push off the mound, but he never showed signs of discomfort during the game.
Kansas City tied the game on a solo shot to the right field corner by Mike Moustakas with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Josh Donaldson hit one of his own to lead off the sixth to give the A’s a 3-2 lead, and it looked like Oakland could add some insurance when Sogard led off the seventh with a ground-rule double, but he was thrown out trying advance to third on a flyout to center by Coco Crisp.
Parker got the first out in the bottom of the seventh, but after surrendering a single to Elliot Johnson and a walk to Dyson, Blevins was brought in to protect the lead. Blevins gave up a four-pitch walk to Gordon, and Hosmer took the first pitch he saw in the next at-bat to center field, deep enough to score Johnson from third to tie the game on a sacrifice fly.
Cook was called upon to face Butler, who lined out to Reddick in right field to end the inning, but the Royals had found new life, and thanks to an error by shortstop Rosales on a routine ground ball in the eighth, they’d put together a two-out rally to take a one-run lead into the ninth.
Cook had retired the first two batters with ease when a grounder by Tejada simply avoided Rosales’ glove and bounced off his leg, and Cook walked the next two batters to load the bases. Dyson then hit a chopper up the middle that was fielded by Rosales behind second base, but there was no play to make as Dyson was fast enough to run it out at first, and pinch-runner Alcides Escobar scored from third to give the Royals a 4-3 lead.
That would be the difference as Greg Holland shut down Oakland’s hitters in the top of the ninth to give Kansas City the win. It’s not often the A’s defense costs them a game, but that was certainly the case today, and while the Royals made some mistakes of their own, Oakland’s were obviously more costly.
Texas is yet to play their Saturday game, so we’ll see just how costly the loss is in a few hours. It’ll be a half-game difference either way, with the A’s staying in first with a Rangers loss, or Texas taking possession of first with a win over the Astros.
Also to be revealed in a few hours are the All-Star rosters, and the A’s are hoping for multiple selections to reward their successful season. Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour seem like locks for the pitching staff, so the real question will be whether or not Donaldson’s strong first half performance gets rewarded. If he is, it could be possible that four third basemen make the squad, as reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera is a virtual lock to start, and Manny Machado and Evan Longoria are strong candidates as well.
The A’s and Royals will face off tomorrow at 11:10 PST in the series-deciding game. A.J. Griffin will be on the mound for Oakland, with right-hander Luis Mendoza getting the start for Kansas City.