The A’s offensive strategy of scoring early and then going silent hasn’t worked out the past two days.
On Saturday they advanced just one runner as far as third base after the third inning, and that left the door open for Pittsburgh. The Pirates finally cashed in with a two-run rally in the top of the 10th off Daniel Coulombe to sink the A’s 4-2 before a fireworks night crowd at the Coliseum.
In Friday’s series opener, the A’s scored three early runs and then were blanked over the final seven innings in a 7-3 loss. A night later, they jumped ahead 2-0 in the third. Then nada.
After taking three in a row from the Giants to open the Bay Bridge Series, the A’s have now lost three in a row to fall back to 11 games under .500 at 35-46.
In their defense, the often quirky characteristics of the Coliseum worked against them in this one. Josh Reddick, who enjoyed a 4-for-4 night, drilled a ball to the fence in the fifth that seemed like it might score Jed Lowrie from first. But the ball hit the base of the right field wall and lodged itself into a small hole at the bottom of the wall. Right fielder Sean Rodriguez threw his arms up, the ball was ruled a ground-rule double, and Lowrie had to stop at third. Danny Valencia grounded out to end the inning.
The Pirates broke through with two runs off Coulombe in the 10th to break a 2-2 tie. David Freese shot a run-scoring single to left that Valencia got a bad break on to his left. Coco Crisp’s throw to the plate wasn’t in time to get Erik Kratz, and Pittsburgh led.
Two batters later, another single got by Valencia on a ball that seemed like it could have been stopped. This time Crisp’s throw to the plate nailed Freese, although Gregory Polanco promptly singled home another run to make it 4-2.
Starting pitching report:
Rich Hill’s return to the rotation was a solid one, with a bumpy fourth inning the only blip on the radar screen. He gave up three hits that inning and hit Jung-Ho Kang with an 0-2 pitch. Starling Marte played a key role in the rally. Right after Hill helped convert a 3-6-1 double play, Marte beat out an infield single to score Andrew McCutchen. He then stole second and came around to score on Josh Harrison’s double down the left-field line. But in Hill’s first start back from a strained groin, it was tough to argue with his final line — six innings, four hits, two runs, two walks and six strikeouts.
Three relievers turned in stellar work in relief of Hill. John Axford, who was carrying a 20.77 ERA over his last eight outings, sailed through a three-up, three-down seventh. Ryan Dull did his usual thing in the eighth, setting the Pirates down in order with a strikeout. Then closer Ryan Madson delivered a high wire act in the top of the ninth. With runners on second and third with one out, Madson coaxed a pop-up from Sean Rodriguez, then retired Josh Harrison on a bunt attempt to third.
At the plate:
The A’s took the lead with a pair of runs in the third off Chad Kuhl. Billy Burns led off with a single and moved to third on Coco Crisp’s double to right. Jed Lowrie plated him with a sacrifice fly, as Crisp advanced to third. Then Josh Reddick served a single into left for his first RBI since coming off the disabled list, giving Oakland a 2-0 lead. All was quiet after that, as the A’s mustered just three hits over the next seven innings.
In the field:
It was a close play for the third out in the top of the ninth, as Josh Harrison tried to drop a bunt down to bring home the go-ahead run. But A’s third baseman Danny Valencia fielded it cleanly and threw to first on a close play. The call was out, and the play was confirmed after a replay review.
A crowd of 28,846 was on hand for the A’s holiday fireworks night.
This series wraps with Daniel Mengden (1-3, 2.81) matching up against lefty Francisco Liriano (4-8, 5.33) in Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. game.