Another comeback victory came up just a few pitches short.
The A’s lost on a walk-off, 7-6, to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon. And, hey, this looks like a pretty evenly-matched series we might see again in October.
Here are some takeaways.
Liam Hendriks is human again
Hendriks’ 20 2/3 scoreless streak came to an abrupt stop in the ninth inning. With the A’s holding a 6-5 lead, forged in the eighth, Hendriks gave up a triple to Ehire Adrianza off the potted plants in right field to score Luis Arraez. Max Kepler’s walk-off single ended Hendriks’ streak of eight straight saves.
“Bad day for me and unfortunately it cost the team,” Hendriks said. “These guys worked their tails off today and I just couldn’t bring it home. It’s disappointing.”
Hendriks was particularly fallible Sunday; it was the third time he’d faced the Twins in this series. The Twins had already made some adjustments – they eased off a pull-happy approach and went the other way Sunday – and they knew what they were getting from Hendriks. No similar adjustment could be made on the A’s end.
“Every pitch they hit, I ended up shaking off (Josh) Phegley,” Hendriks said.
His stuff looked as nasty as it’s been, but the slider intended to slice over Adrianza’s back foot fell up in the zone. The one to Kepler meant to ease up and in, but fell into his sweet spot.
“At some point in time he’s going to blow one,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s the nature of the game.”
Marcus Semien is not human
Semien’s defensive play at shortstop used to be…iffy. Back in 2016 his SDI score ranked 0, which isn’t as bad as it sounds: he was average, often made crucial mistakes and hadn’t established his range at the tricky position.
Halfway through 2019, Semien’s 7.3 SDI ranks as the second-best defender overall (behind Minnesota’s Byron Buxton, who’s on the IL).
Numbers mean nothing without action, though. And Semien had action to the tune of two Gold Glove caliber plays that stop-gapped potential disaster innings.
The first was right out of the circus. Semien harnessed Arraez’s ground ball through the gap and, on his side, flipped the ball to a Chad Pinder, who also was tumbling but was able to scrape his foot across the bag. Nelson Cruz was called safe initially, but a replay review determined otherwise.
Semien topped that play in the eighth inning, robbing Cruz of what was at the time a game-saving RBI single.
It saved a run, even if a series win couldn’t be salvaged.
Daniel Mengden’s inconsistencies
Following his call-up from Triple-A Las Vegas on June 26, Mengden had gone 4-0 in his starts with a 3.38 ERA. Most importantly: he’d issued just one walk over those four games, a major step forward after he’d allowed 15 walks over his first five starts this season.
Mengden fell into old habits Sunday, walking five batters in 3 1/3 innings.
“He’s been ahead, ahead, ahead and that’s been a recipe for him to pitch well,” Melvin said. “And today it was more behind, behind, behind. We needed him to give us some innings to keep us in the game based on where our bullpen is.”
Mengden’s struggles might place him on the rotational chopping block as Sean Manaea’s return looms, as does the possibility of a trade to acquire another starting pitcher before the deadline.
Kepler took Mengden deep for a three-run homer in the second inning to put the A’s in a 4-0 hole. The A’s offense climbed out of that hole, though. Josh Phegley hit a two-run home run, Pinder knocked a sac fly in the sixth and Semien scored on a wild pitch the next inning.
The A’s took the lead in the eighth on Chris Herrmann’s pinch-hit RBI double and Phegley’s sac fly.
This team has fight, and left Minneapolis with a well-played series under its belt. But Houston awaits.
“We’ve got a series in Houston to try to control our own destiny right now,” Hendriks said.