Oakland blasted their way to an early lead, however the bullpen could not hold on late as the A’s lost their first series of the past seven, keeping their magic number to clinch the AL west at six games.
A.J. Griffin retired 17 of the last 18 batters he faced and surrendered just one hit over six innings, albeit his ML-leading 35th home run allowed of the season in the first inning to Mike Trout, but was denied his 15th win on the year as the A’s crumbled late in the game to a 5-4 11-inning loss.
“We’ve had some tough losses this year, and we’ve had dramatic wins. You just put this one away, come back tomorrow and expect to win again, and as a team we’ve been pretty good at that,” said Bob Melvin.
It was another shaky outing for the A’s All-Star closer Grant Balfour, who has struggled putting runners on base in the second half after looking super-human at the start of the season. Balfour blew just his third save of the year (38-41) allowing a game-tying two-run blast to Josh Hamilton in the ninth, but still maintains the vote of confidence from his skipper going forward.
“He’s had a great year. If you look at it overall, three blown-saves is going to work anywhere,” said Melvin. “He did have good stuff today, just one fastball probably not in the right spot to a good fastball hitter.”
Coco Crisp continues to stay hot in the A’s lineup, his career-high 20th home run in the third inning tied the game, and since August 21, his 10 homers are the most in the AL. Not to be outdone, slugger Yoenis Cespedes smashed a long home run to straight-away center field two batters later for his career high 24th home run that gave Oakland a two-run lead, and also marked the end of Oakland’s offensive output on the afternoon.
The two spark plugs that make the Oakland offense go will be pivotal down the stretch and in a potential playoff run, and while both have spent time on the DL over the course of the season, they are healthy and swinging the bat well at a crucial time.
A big concern for the A’s moving forward is the bullpen, which has been a vital part of their success on the season, but has struggled at times in the second half. Jesse Chavez gave up a lead-off double in the 11th which turned out to be the winning run for Anaheim, and after working his way to an 0-2 count on Hamilton, Jerry Blevins left a ball up in the zone which was driven to deep left field for the RBI. Hamilton entered the at bat 1-11, with seven strikeouts against Blevins.
Next up for the A’s will be their final home series of the regular season, a four-game set with Minnesota. With 10 games to play, the A’s maintain a six-game lead over Texas, and can wrap up the division for the second year in a row as early as this weekend.
Dan Straily (10-7, 4.11) will take the hill Thursday night looking for his fifth consecutive win in his last five outings. The Twins will counter with Kevin Correia (9-12, 4.31) looking to play the spoiler role.