OAKLAND – What a story it would have made Monday night had the A’s beaten Chris Sale without benefit of their own ace taking the mound.
They had their chances, but ultimately couldn’t overcome the White Sox’s four-run third and lost 4-3 to Chicago in their season-opener before a sold-out crowd at the Coliseum.
Rich Hill -- starting for the A’s in place of Sonny Gray, who had food poisoning – lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The A’s made a costly error that resulted in two Sox’s runs in that third inning.
Still, they were within striking distance the entire night against Sale, the American League’s strikeout leader from 2015, who allowed three runs over seven innings.
All of the night’s runs came in the third – four from Chicago, three from Oakland.
But the A’s went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and are now 5-18 on Opening Day since 1994.
Starting pitching report:
It was unusual circumstances that led to Hill’s first Opening Day start. He also began it in unusual fashion, plunking Adam Eaton in the arm on the first pitch of the game. He would hit Jose Abreu later in the inning but make it through his first two innings unscored upon.
Things unraveled in the third, starting with Hill’s two-base error on a pickoff throw to first. Eaton followed with a triple over Billy Burns’ head for the game’s first run, and Jimmy Rollins’ bloop made it 2-0. With runners on second and third and two outs, Hill got a ground ball from Melky Cabrera. A’s shortstop Marcus Semien went up the middle to scoop it up, but his throw to first was wide, Mark Canha didn’t come off the bag to catch it, and the ball got by him to score two more runs and end Hill’s night.
Just two of the four runs off Hill were earned, but he threw 66 pitches in just 2 2/3 innings, and just 36 of them for strikes. If Hill is going to pitch deeper in games, he’ll need to be more efficient.
Faced with a long night’s work after Hill’s departure, the A’s relief corps delivered. Five relievers combined for 6 1/3 scoreless innings to keep Oakland within striking distance.
At the plate:
After falling behind 4-0 in the top of the third, the A’s struck back for three in the bottom half. Jed Lowrie lined a two-out two-run single to right off Sale. After Reddick singled, Danny Valencia shot a run-scoring hit up the middle to make it 4-3.
Oakland wasted a leadoff double in the fourth from Billy Butler, who had a pair of doubles and lined out to center in his other plate appearance. Billy Burns reached with two outs in the seventh as the tying run but strayed too far off the bag and was picked off by Sox catcher Dioner Navarro. It was a rough first game in green and gold for left fielder Khris Davis, who struck out three times as part of an 0-for-4 night, including twice to strand a runner in scoring position.
In the field:
Hill could have stayed in the game longer had the 6-3 putout been completed by Semien and Canha to end the top of the third. Semien had to cover a lot of ground to get the ball, but was in position to make a better throw. Canha needed to come off the bag and catch the ball, limiting that play to one Sox run instead of two. And, Hill didn’t help himself with the errant pickoff throw.
A sellout crowd of 35,067 was on hand for the opener.
If Sonny Gray is recovered from the after-effects of food poisoning, he’ll take the ball Tuesday night. Otherwise, Chris Bassitt will likely move up a day and start. Lefty Jose Quintana goes for the White Sox. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.