OAKLAND – The Oakland A urgently had to straighten the ship with a berth for the postseason and lost their fourth series in a row. This time a 6-3 defeat against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday evening in front of 4,500 spectators.
There are only 24 games left in the season and the A’s – at one point in July in first place in the American League West – are 3.5 games behind the second wildcard place of the Boston Red Sox. The silver lining for Oakland is at least every wildcard contender (other than the up and coming Toronto Blue Jays) who lost on Tuesday night. But silver linings grow cloudy; the A’s cannot fall backwards into the postseason.
Manager Bob Melvin said after being swept in Toronto that the A’s best baseball was ahead of them. He really believed it. The production in the field just doesn’t match the urgency this team may feel as the competition window slowly closes. Or, as the starter of A, James Kaprielian, put it: “Everyone just has to do their job.”
“We are now looking inwards from the outside. We know what to do, ”said Matt Olson. “We know we have the talent here. We really believe that we are a team that should be in the playoffs and should go for a long run in the playoffs. We have to pick it up from the last four games … it’s a lot easier said than done. We don’t have a pressing, but from now on we have to play better if we want to win the World Series. It’s that simple. ”
Contributing to this breakdown is a crumbling staff. Without Chris Bassitt, who anchors the rotation, with starters who venture into uncharted territory, their one-off strength becomes a weakness.
For the 15th time in the last 23 games, the A’s starter failed to go past the fifth inning, leaving the meat of the game open to a bullpen unable to prevent runs from being crossed.
James Kaprielian’s 30-pitch first inning by allowing a run on a base-laden walk resulted in an inefficient outing that left the bullpen with the last five innings.
“These guys did a good job grinding me up and putting some long at-bats together. I just didn’t make it, ”said Kaprielian. “I really wanted to dive deep into this game and give the guys in the pen a day off. Do what I can to be a turning point for us because that is what we need now. It just didn’t happen, the game wasn’t going in our direction. ”
Although the White Sox approach tired him and quickly increased his pitch count, Kaprielian worked through a few jams and hit three more goalless outings before his pitch count caught up with him. At 92 pitches after four innings, Kaprielian was named for A.J. Puk.
Though Puk was inconsistent – four of his 10 appearances he allowed at least two runs, the rest zero – but manager Bob Melvin liked the matchups against Eloy Jimenez and Gavin Sheets, both of whom hit well under 0.200 against left-handed pitchers. Both accumulated hits in a five-hit spree that brought the White Sox 4-1 up – Puk was pulled down with just one out.
“They had a really good approach, didn’t try to pull,” Melvin said. “Hit the ball the other way. Obviously a lot of hits against him lined up. ”
Daulton Jefferies stopped the bleeding with a double play ball to stop it. Throwing 3 1/3 innings, he took the eighth inning for Jake Diekman after giving up a double and a walk. Diekman scored both runs with a broken bat single for Brian Goodwin, who stood up for Eloy Jimenez after being hit in the knee with a foul ball in the dugout.
Despite these runs, Jefferies was the most powerful arm out of the bullpen and kept the A within striking distance. Jefferies threw 54 pitches, an indication that he and his fresh arm could be used in even longer unloading roles.
“Unfortunately he gets a couple of tries, but he’s really starting to feel confident,” said Melvin.
The day before completing a sweep in Toronto, the A’s could only scrape off one run from Jimmy Lambert of Fresno, making its fourth start of the season in favor of an injured White Sox rotation. Josh Harrison’s double, who led the first inning, was one of three hits that Lambert’s A’s dumped, his run being a victim fly, the only run of his.
The A fought their way back in the eighth inning, Yan Gomes and Elvis Andrus clashing to score two hits against Ryan Burr. The White Sox went to their second closer, Craig Kimbrel, and Starling Marte responded with an RBI single in the middle, stealing his 43rd base and going to third place due to a mistake. He’s 21-for-21 on stolen basic attempts with the A’s. But Matt Olson and Khris Davis – who made his first at-bats in Oakland since his return – couldn’t get him home from the third.
“We’re all pulling on the same side of the rope,” said Kaprielian. “We all want the same thing. We all believe our best baseball is yet to come. We know how to get started. ”
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Josh Harrison was drawn for pinch hitter Chad Pinder after the eighth inning with tightness in his lower back after jumping after a ball at second base. Tony Kemp was removed by Leury Garcia in the ninth with a wrist injury following a collision during the stolen base attempt.