OAKLAND –- At what point exactly can a lead be considered safe for the A’s?
It’s a relevant and timely question in the wake of Oakland’s most recent late-inning fiasco. This one came in Friday’s 7-6 defeat to the Chicago White Sox, when the Sox used a five-run rally in the seventh to erase Oakland’s 6-2 lead, all the runs scoring with two outs.
It was yet another gut-wrencher for the A’s, who simply can’t do enough good things in a game to outweigh all the bad that eventually seems to snowball on them. They’ve now lost eight of their past nine. At 13-24, they’ve fallen 11 games under .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season 14 under at 74-88.
The game ended in crazy fashion. Coco Crisp doubled to left-center, but Stephen Vogt, running at first, was caught in a rundown between third and home. Thrid base coach Mike Gallego was waving him until Vogt hit the bag, then he put the stop sign up, but Vogt couldn’t apply the breaks in time.
An encouraging start from Jesse Hahn went to waste, as the right-hander left in the seventh with a four-run lead and didn’t get the victory that seemed coming his way.
The A’s erased a 2-1 deficit when Josh Reddick cleared the bases with a triple that put Oakland up 4-2. They added to their lead and seemed destined to begin this three-game series on a strong note.
But in the top of the seventh, Melky Cabrera singled in a run off Fernando Rodriguez, Adam LaRoche doubled home two runs off Fernando Abad and Avisail Garcia doubled home two against Evan Scribner to put Chicago up 6-5.
Starting pitching report
Jesse Hahn turned in his best start of the season, and no one watching the first inning could have predicted that would happen. The right-hander didn’t appear long for the game in the top of the first, when he allowed three hits and two walks, including one free pass with the bases loaded. But with the sacks full, no outs and one run in, Hahn bore down and allowed just one more run. And getting out of that inning down just 2-0 seemed like a boost of sorts.
Hahn settled in after that and retired 16 of his final 18 hitters. He threw a season-high 6 1/3 innings, gave up five hits and four runs (two earned), struck out five and walked two.
The A’s search for a reliable bullpen combo continues after another late-inning lead slipped away.
At the plate
The A’s were in an 0-for-21 streak with runners in scoring position before Reddick turned on a 1-1 pitch from Carlos Rodon and drove a three-run triple in the fourth that put the A’s up 4-2. Oakland loaded the bases via three walks from Rodon, the 22-year-old rated by mlb.com as the No. 2 lefty prospect in the game. Josh Phegley, who was with the White Sox last season, homered to lead off the bottom of the fourth to begin the A’s rally that inning.
In all, Chicago pitchers issued eight walks, and that alone should have been enough to lose this one. The A’s added single runs in the fifth and sixth on RBI singles from Eric Sogard and Billy Butler. They left the bases loaded in the fifth, failing to pad their lead more. But how many runs should it require to salt away a victory?
In the field
The seeds for the White Sox’s five-run go-ahead rally in the seventh were planted with the inability of the A’s defense to end the threat when chances were there. With runners at first and second, Adam Eaton hit a potential double-play grounder to short. Marcus Semien flipped to second, and Sogard’s relay to first was just a hair late. It’s a play the A’s should have turned two on, one they need to be quicker all the way around.
On the next batter, with runners on the corners, Cabrera hit a bouncer to the left side. Semien had broken with the pitch to cover second as Eaton was stealing. Third baseman Brett Lawrie began to pursue the ball and seemed to have a play on it, but he suddenly stopped giving chase, thinking Semien was in position to make the play. It went through for an RBI single and cut the A’s lead to 6-3.
It’s those kinds of subtle breakdowns that are repeatedly coming back to hurt the A’s.
A crowd of 21,464 went nuts when Steph Curry’s cross-court buzzer beater was shown on the JumboTron.
The A’s and Sox play a 6:05 p.m. game Saturday to continue this three-game series. Jesse Chavez (1-3, 2.56) takes the ball for Oakland and lefty John Danks (1-3, 5.12) goes for Chicago. Crazy stat – Chavez has allowed 10 of his 11 runs in the third through fifth innings.