For anyone that was hoping that two-game series against a National League team would fix whatever is ailing the Oakland Athletics’ hitters, Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds was quite the disappointment.
The A’s went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and they avoided a second straight shutout narrowly, thanks to a solo shot by pinch hitter Derek Norris with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Dan Straily lasted four innings, getting pulled in the fifth after 75 pitches when Oakland manager Bob Melvin tried to take advantage of a run scoring opportunity, a prudent move considering they’ve been so hard to come by lately. The right-hander left the game having allowed two earned runs — a solo home run to Jay Bruce in the second and an RBI single by Brandon Phillips in the third — with three strikeouts and one walk. The A’s wouldn’t end up scoring after he was taken out, with Yoenis Cespedes grounding out with the bases loaded to end the threat.
They had opportunities early on, as well. Eric Sogard hit a one-out double in the first and Yoenis Cespedes drew a two-out walk, but Brandon Moss grounded out to end the inning.
In the third, Coco Crisp tripled with one-out, but Sogard came out aggressive in the next at-bat and ended up grounding out to third 0n the second pitch he saw. Jed Lowrie popped out to short to end the rally, and it was another squandered chance for Oakland.
A’s reliever Jerry Blevins allowed the third run of the game in the bottom of the fifth. After a lead off double by Shin-Shoo Choo, Derek Robinson laid down a bunt, and although Blevins fielded it cleanly, he threw wide of first base, and Choo crossed the plate as the ball rolled into foul territory in right field.
Oakland had one last decent chance at rallying when Lowrie smacked a double off of Latos with one out in the eighth. Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker was quick to pull the starter, who finished with three strikeouts, three walks and only four hits allowed. Right-hander J.J. Hoover came in and effectively shut the door on the short window of opportunity, retiring Cespedes and Braondon Moss to strand another Oakland baserunner. That marked 18 straight innings that the A’s went without a run.
Pat Neshek and Dan Otero pitched well over the final 2.2 innings for the A’s, but it didn’t matter much in the long run as there wasn’t any offensive spark to back it up. Aroldis Chapman earned his 26th save of the season despite giving up the homer to Norris, and the 3-1 loss was the fifth contest they’ve dropped in the last six games.
Oakland now sits a mere 1.5 games ahead of the Texas Rangers in the AL West, and it could be down to a single game if Texas wins against the Angels Tuesday night. They’ll be back in Cincinnati tomorrow to finish off the tw0-game series against the Reds, and Bartolo Colon will face off against Homer Bailey in the pitching matchup in an afternoon game, which means 9:35 AM start for the west coast.