The Oakland A’s have finally won a game!
It took them seven tries, putting them within two outs of the worst start in all of franchise history, but the 2021 A’s finally broke out of their funk and started competing. The result was a 10-inning, comeback, walk-off, 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday-afternoon.
Pin wire # 1 Pin wire # 2
The A’s opened the day with a 0-6 record, after having lost all of their first six games of the season. That put them in touch with the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics for the longest futility streak to open a campaign, and no A team had ever started 0-7 in 120 seasons of club history. To avoid that dubious distinction, they should overcome the reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer and the defending world champion Dodgers.
The first step was to keep the opponent off the board long enough to have a chance at all, as the A’s starter had dug an early hole in each of the first six games. Jesus Luzardo eventually kept the Dodgers at bay and gave up only one run in the first five innings. The left wing had to throw some problems around, including a walk on base in the 1st, but at one point he was retired 11 times in a row and finished with six strikeouts.
Oakland took a gamble and let Luzardo start the 6th inning and it didn’t work, as he put two of the first three batters on base and finished with a second run on his record.
Illuminator Adam Kolarek went into the traffic jam and got the first groundout he needed, but then the defensive shift thwarted the lefthanded again. Lefty batter Zack McKinstry bunted to the open area at third base, and while Matt Chapman made a nice play to tag out a runner and end the inning, there was enough time for the run that was taken over to pass the plate.
The game was still close for six innings, and there was no meltdown of the bullpen. Sergio Romo allowed one more run in the 7th, but Jake Diekman Lou Trivino, and Yusmeiro Klein it locked the rest of the way for three scoreless frames.
Three runs allowed in 10 innings? Against the Dodgers, even a version without a banged-up Mookie Betts and Cody BellingerThat is a winning attempt, and on this day it was indeed just enough.
The setup is moving
The A’s came out with 13 runs in six games, the worst average per game in the American League. But they also had the 14th best exit speed in MLB, right with the Yankees, so at least there was encouragement that they hit the ball hard.
It’s not like they scored more in this game, because they hadn’t even hit their season high. But they scored what they needed and got it done when they needed to, and the afternoon was loaded with positive signals.
It took until the 4th inning to get on the board, and it was a pure Ramon Run, in the vein of Rickey Henderson. Ramon Laureano was hit by a pitch and then stole second base. With a heavy defensive shift off a left hitter and no one holding him on second base, he practically walked to third base without even making a throw. Once the broadcast crew could explain the value of the extra 30 feet, it came true in real life, as Bauer’s next field was buried in the dirt and bounced off the catcher, scoring Laureano.
If hitting the ball doesn’t work for your team, try something else! Ramon went from the batter’s box to the plate without making contact and also not being moved by a batter’s actions on the plate. He just circled the bases for free, and between he and McKinstry, each team gave textbook examples of how to leverage defensive shifts.
Two pitches later, Oakland almost got another run. Seth Brown, who made his season debut, launched a near-homer to the right that hardly went wrong. For the second day in a row, the A’s missed a towering dinger from a Cy caliber pitcher by just a few feet to the wrong side of the foul post. Stephen Piscotty did it against Clayton Kershaw last night.
Instead, they waited until the 7th for their next count, and this time they didn’t miss their long shot. Matt Chapman has been out of sync on the plate so far, and the 2-for-21 line he carried to this at bat was actually generous, but he finally got his hands on one from Bauer.
That’s 108.9 mph from the output speed. Anyone else want to bet Chappy will settle down again at some point?
Despite those positive runs and highlights, the A’s still trailed when the 9th inning rolled around. It was only 3-2, but the size of the margin wouldn’t matter if they couldn’t close it right away. They had to score again, now
And they did it! Chapman hit it hard again, this time for a leadoff single. Brown walked, his second time on base despite his missed homer. Tony Kemp she moved with a sacrifice bunt. And Elvis Andrus, 1-for-24 to open the year, made enough contact to bring the runner home from third base, with a sac-bunt fly liner to center.
The game advanced to the 10th and both clubs walked on second base because of the new extra time rule. Petit stranded his in the top half of the frame and Dodgers-reliever Jimmy Nelson was called to love Mark Canha of crossing the plate.
The first batter walked and the second batter (Laureano) flew out deep enough to bring Canha to third base. Mitch Moreland, which tended a 2-for-20 season line, ripped a liner from 103.3 mph in the middle. Walk away!
Tip of the hat on Laureano’s prolific catch, which brought the outfield into a shallower position. Would Moreland’s liner have gone the same with a runner in second place? Maybe it would have been, or maybe a deeper outfielder would have taken it. Anyway, with the runner in third place, it wouldn’t have mattered if it did had caught because a sacrifice fly would still have worked (that’s why the outfielder played shallow in the first place).
Good starting pitching. Good relief. Enough insult and link if you need to. What about the defense?
Yes, that will work. Besides reaching base twice and almost homered, Brown also made the game with his glove. In a one-run game that went to extras and ended in a walk-off, that saved run was clearly critical.
Welcome back to MLB, Seth!
(Chapman also made all of his plays at third base, including the aforementioned highlight.)
Let’s do this
The pitching, hitting and defense were all good, and basically everyone in the lineup who was struggling came through well. Chapman was good on both sides of the ball, Andrus equalized and Moreland knocked in the winner. And Laureano, after missing a few games, impressed in multiple ways, as he usually does. And a little bit of new blood came in and shook things up, in the form of Brown.
Part of the problem with the first six losses was how completely dominated they were, making it difficult for you to imagine what a win would even look like. But every problem melted away in the April sun today, and they played more like the talented contender they should be. It’s only one game, of course, but the slump was only six games.
“We’ve all just gotten tired of getting kicked in the butt,” Luzardo said
The first six losses count in the standings, but it certainly felt like the 2021 season finally started today for the A’s and that we were finally seeing the squad we envisioned a week ago. Not just because of the win, but because of how they performed overall.
Three teams in MLB history have made the playoffs after starting 0-6, and Oakland will now try to become the fourth. Sounds like an A thing to do, and I’m almost disappointed we’re not on that list yet, so let’s do this.