The roof caved for the A’s in one forgettable inning Friday night, and that scene has played out far too often in 2015.
The guilty party wasn’t so predictable, however.
Lefty reliever Drew Pomeranz, who had been so reliable of late, allowed two bases-loaded walks and a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth at Progressive Field.
Presto … a 1-1 tie became a 5-1 defeat to the Cleveland Indians, and the A’s were left to digest their third consecutive loss on this two-city road trip.
Pomeranz entered a bases-loaded, two-out situation in relief of Kendall Graveman, who pitched well but saw his pitch count get driven up early. Pomeranz got squeezed on a couple of early pitches by home plate umpire Laz Diaz, then wasn’t close on ball-four pitches to Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor. Then Michael Brantley singled up the middle to bring home two more runs, and Cleveland broke open a close game in the opener of a three-game series that will take both teams into the All-Star break.
The A’s certainly didn’t help themselves at the plate either. Similar to the previous two days against the Yankees, Oakland struck early and then went silent. They scratched out a first-inning run against Danny Salazar (8-4), but that was it.
Pomeranz, who began the season in the rotation but has thrived recently in a late-inning relief role, hadn’t allowed a run in his previous eight outings.
Starting pitching report
When Graveman (6-5) walked off the mound in the sixth, he had a pretty decent pitching line going. But three of the runs that scored with Pomeranz in the game were charged to Graveman, and the rookie wound up with four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, walked three and struck out six.
The bottom of the fourth was a pivotal inning for him. The Indians got to Graveman for just one run in that frame, but although he stranded the bases loaded, he was forced to throw 30-plus pitches in the inning. That ensured he wouldn’t be pitching deep in this one.
Graveman saw a six-start streak snapped in which he threw at least seven innings and allowed two runs or fewer. That was the longest such streak by a rookie pitcher in Oakland history.
In Pomeranz’s defense, he got squeezed on his very first two pitches upon entering the game. He threw two curves to Kipnis that could have been called strikes, but Diaz ruled them to be high. When Pomeranz missed with another close pitch later in the sixth, he appeared to raise his arms as if to say “Where’d that miss?” Diaz responded by raising his arms demonstratively back at the pitcher.
At any rate, Pomeranz missed by plenty on other pitches. He’s the latest hot hand in the bullpen that Melvin has leaned on in an effort to find some stability with his relief corps. Others have had similar hot stretches – Evan Scribner, Fernando Rodriguez, Dan Otero among them – before eventually falling on tougher times. Pomeranz will try to avoid falling into the same pattern.
At the plate
Scoring early hasn’t been a problem for the A’s. Billy Burns singled to lead off the game and eventually scored on Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly. That was it for the A’s, as Salazar got locked in and came within an out of throwing a complete game. After the first, the A’s didn’t advance a runner past second base. Salazar allowed five hits, walked one and struck out eight over 8 2/3 innings.
In the field
Mark Canha made a nice running catch in left field and the A’s turned in an error-free game.
With Jesse Hahn headed to the disabled list, Chris Bassitt (0-2, 2.95) will take the ball Saturday for the A’s, opposed by Carlos Carrasco (10-7, 4.17). First pitch is 3:35 p.m.