For the second game in a row, Cleveland fell behind early but fought back to take the lead with big clutch hits. This time, however, the bullpen held it together (if only just) and they escaped with a narrow 3-2 win.
Cleveland got on the bases almost immediately, with Amed Rosario hitting a hard double and José Ramírez getting hit by a pitch on the hand in the first inning (again). He stayed in the game, though the inning would end two batters later with back-to-back outs from Franmil Reyes and Bobby Bradley.
The A’s responded to the threat immediately in the bottom half of the first as Matt Olson and Mitch Moreland hit doubles off of Cal Quantrill to make the game 1-0 after the first frame. That would be all the scoring that Quantrill allowed, although things got a little hairy later on.
In the fifth, Quantrill’s final inning of the afternoon, he allowed a lead-off single to Tony Kemp before hitting the next two batters on consecutive pitches to load the bases. With Nick Sandlin warming up as fast as he could and the ghosts of last night’s blown lead looming, the pressure mounted exponentially. He induced Cleveland killer Elvis Andrus into a double play that prevented a run, which then brought up Matt Olson to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs.
Olson, who took his first trip to an All-Star Game this season and already doubled off of Quantrill once, drew an unintentional intentional walk. Quantrill technically had to throw him five pitches as the one “strike” was a ball several inches off the plate. Quantrill fired a pitch way outside of the zone on the 3-1 count, as he did with every other pitch that at-bat. He wanted nothing to do with Olson with a base open.
Quantrill and Cleveland were rewarded for the strategy as Moreland flew out to end the inning and prevent any runs from scoring. The narrow 2-1 lead built by Cesar Hernandez and Amed Rosario half an inning earlier was preserved.
Quantrill leaned on his sinker for 48 of his 85 pitches this afternoon and he did an outstanding job of limiting hard contact with it. The average exit velocity on the five sinkers put in play by Oakland was just 69 mph, and the hardest hit registered at 89.2 mph. He also placed nine of them for called strikes and induced four whiffs. This is probably something worth exploring more in-depth in a post later on, but I think it’s safe to say his sinker looked as good as it ever has today.
After a few quiet innings from both offenses, Franmil Reyes added a much-needed insurance run with an absolute bomb in the eighth inning. It was a 109.2 mph laser to straight-away center field that landed in one of the A’s suites for some lucky fan. The official measurement was 437 feet, but it looked like something closer to 4,000.
After blowing the lead in the ninth last night, Emmanuel Clase was sent out in the eighth inning today. It wasn’t some kind of low-stakes situation as punishment by any means. He was still thrown out there to face Olson, Moreland, and Ramon Laureano. Unlike yesterday though, he looked filthy on the mound in the midday sun, striking out Moreland and Laureano to end the inning.
That left James Karinchak to close out the game this time around, and he did so in the most heart-attacking-inducing way possible. For one, he walked Matt Chapman to lead off the bottom of the ninth, then allowed Seth Brown to single and Sean Murphy to hit a sacrifice fly to bring Chapman home from third. After Mark Canha’s single that Karinchak somehow knocked down to prevent from getting to the outfield, Elvis Andrus was up to bat, ready to continue his pummeling of this poor baseball franchise.
He grounded out to shortstop instead and sent the A’s home with their first loss since July 9.