OAKLAND –- The A’s still hold lofty status in several offensive categories across the Major Leagues, but it’s tough to tell from their recent body of work.
On Thursday they dealt themselves, and their home fans, a hearty helping of frustration by squandering numerous scoring opportunties in a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
They made a mad rush in the ninth inning, getting to Detroit closer Joe Nathan for two runs after they trailed 5-2. But with the tying run at second base, pinch hitter Jed Lowrie grounded out to first base to end it.
With that, the A’s had to settle for a split of the four-game series, not the surge of momentum they were hoping for as they greet the Los Angeles Angels for a big division series starting Friday.
The A’s stranded 14 runners and finished 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position, failing to make Tigers pitchers pay for issuing nine walks plus a hit batsman.
Oakland entered Thursday ranked third in the majors in runs, fourth in home runs, second in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging percentage. But they’re hitting .202 over their past 10 games, during which they are 4-6.
Starting pitching report
It was no easy go for A’s right-hander Jesse Chavez, who needed 107 pitches to get through six innings. A “quality start” nonetheless. He allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks, which both came in the first. Chavez stranded bases loaded that inning with the help of an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
The Tigers broke through for their first run in the third when Ian Kinsler doubled and came around to score on Miguel Cabrera’s grounder to short. After Nick Punto’s homer put the A’s up 2-1, Detroit jumped back on top in the fifth with Kinsler again doing damage. He shot an opposite-field double down the right-field line tht scored Andrew Romine.
After Don Kelly’s infield single put runners on the corners, Cabrera lofted a shallow and catchable fly ball to right that Josh Reddick couldn’t hold on to. He did get a force-out at second but Kinsler scored on the play to make it 3-2 (it went in the book as a sacrifice fly/fielder’s choice).
It marked just the third time in the past seven starts that Chavez has gone as deep as six innings.
Jim Johnson’s wayward season continues. Entering in the seventh and looking to keep it a one-run game, he allowed three consecutive one-out hits, the last a two-run double down the right-field line from Victor Martinez that stretched Detroit’s lead to 5-2.
Johnson, who once again left to boos from the home crowd, has allowed nine earned runs over his past nine outings (8 1/3 IP).
At the plate
Twice the A’s advanced a runner to third with less than two outs and failed to score. In the second, Eric Sogard grounded into a 1-2-3 double play to let the air out of a bases-loaded, no-out rally. In the fifth, they had runners on the corners with no outs. But Josh Donaldson struck out swinging, cleanup man Brandon Moss popped out an Yoenis Cespedes sent a soft fly ball to left that J.D. Martinez made a shoestring catch on.
Add to that a two-out bases-loaded situation in the sixth, when John Jaso popped out to end that threat. Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, the A’s also got the first two runners aboard on walks but couldn’t break through.
They did get an unexpected source of power from Punto, who returned after missing four games with a left calf injury and connected for his first homer of the season, a two-run shot in the fourth that briefly put Oakland on top 2-1.
In the field
Reddick typically hauls in the ball off Cabrera’s bat in the fifth. It’s tough to judge whether Kinsler would have tried to tag up and score had Reddick completed the catch.
Porcello helped himself by fielding Eric Sogard’s comebacker in the second and starting a home-to-first double play that helped him escape a bases-loaded jam.
The announced turnout was 21,860, though that number shrank by one after a fan ran on to the field and was taken down by a good open-field tackle from Coliseum security.
The Los Angeles Angels arrive Friday for a three-game series between the A.L. West’s top two clubs. Friday – Drew Pomeranz (4-2, 1.38) vs. Garrett Richards (4-1, 3.00), 7:05 p.m. Saturday -- Tommy Milone (3-3, 3.50) vs. Tyler Skaggs (4-2, 3.97), 7:05 p.m. Sunday – Sonny Gray (5-1, 2.31) vs. Jered Weaver (6-3, 2.99), 1:05 p.m.