The Oakland A’s nearly came away with a series win in Pittsburgh. After coming in for an injured Khris Davis, Chad Pinder was nearly the hero. But, with closer Blake Treinen down, Fernando Rodney only nearly got his first save of the season. Instead, he was tagged with his second loss of the season.
The Pirates prevailed, 5-3 in 13 innings on Sunday, after the A’s came back from an early deficit and the loss of slugger Khris Davis, who suffered a left hip contusion making a catch in foul ground in the first. Pinder had come in and not only survived his own ninth-inning collision with PNC Parks’ wall, but beat out a would-be double play and helping to key what looked to be a game-winning rally.
That rally, though, wasn’t enough, and nor was a punchless Oakland offense, which stranded 19 men on the afternoon. After a masterful start from Frankie Montas, after six no-hit innings with seven strikeouts, Oakland’s bullpen once again coughed up a late lead, as what was the third-best bullpen in Major League Baseball last season has now blown seven saves, tied for the second-most in baseball.
The Pirates jumped ahead in the second against Montas, when Josh Bell lined a 3-0 fastball at the knees the other way into the 410-foot notch in left center for a double, and then rode home on a sac fly by Liam Moran. Montas then retired eight in a row before allowing a single in the top of the fifth.
Montas — who did not take batting practice — got a chance to flip his bat after drawing a five-pitch walk from Jordan Lyles in the top of the fifth — a walk so erratic that it had the training staff coming out to see what was wrong. A walk to Marcus Semien loaded the bases, but Ramon Laureano grounded back up the middle to a perfectly-placed Adam Frazier for an inning-ending force out.
Montas returned the favor by getting out of a two-on, one-out jam with a pop up and then fanning Lyles on a 97-mph fastball in on the hands to end the bottom of the fifth.
The Pirates threatened in the sixth, when Frazier slugged a double into that left-center field notch, and Starling Marte served a single back through the infield to put men at the corners with no outs. A fly ball to center had Frazier bluffing home, but he stopped in his tracks when the strong-armed Ramon Laureano came up firing home.
Montas then used his mid-90s slider and splitter to baffle the powerful Josh Bell on three pitches, and got a line-out to second from Melky Cabrera to get out of the jam. Montas finished with five strikeouts in six innings of work.
The A’s finally pulled even with two outs in the seventh, when pinch hitter Robbie Grossman cashed in a Nick Hundley double with a slicing line-drive single over third. A run-and-hit single over reliever Dovydas Neverauskas’ head by Semien put men at the corners with two outs, and Semien swiped his second bag of the season to put two men in scoring position, but Oakland couldn’t add on.
Reliever Lou Trivino allowed a walk and a stolen base to Starling Marte in the eighth, but a Gregory Polanco line drive found Semien’s mitt behind second, and he doubled off Marte by stepping on the bag to end the inning. That started a string of 10 straight Pirates retired by Oakland pitchers.
The A’s went to rookie Skye Bolt to start the 12th, hitting for Ryan Buchter as the last Oakland position player on the bench. He struck out against reliever Tyler Lyons.
Lyons walked Laureano and Matt Chapman to open the top of the 13th, throwing nine straight balls before the crowd gave sarcastic cheers for his 1-0 strike to Pinder. Pinder sent a 1-2 grounder up the middle, but shortstop Cole Tucker had to come a ways to tag the bag, and that extra distance let Pinder reach first on a would-be double play and sent Laureano to third.
A flare to right by Kendrys Morales on a breaker in at the knees broke the tie, and a double off the wall in right by Stephen Piscotty brought home Pinder.
Oakland could have extended the lead further after a walk to Jurickson Profar. A would-be liner back through the box by reliever Yusmeiro Petit hit off the top of Lyons’ foot and ricochetted to third, where Jung Ho Kang tagged third and fired to first for an inning-ending double play.
After getting the first out of the bottom fo the 13th on a grounder to second, Fernando Rodney — and his 325 career saves — allowed a single and a walk, and then left a 95-mph fastball middle-middle for Frazier, who sent an RBI single to right center to bring home a run, and put the tying run at third.
Marte hit the first pitch he saw from Rodney to dead center for a three-run blast, sinking the A’s.