If the Oakland A’s are to be serious contenders come October, they will need to fare better against the American League elite.
A 6-3 loss to the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins was not the way that Oakland wanted to start a gruesome seven-game road stretch that includes four against the Twins and three against the AL West-leading Houston Astros. They are now 3-9 against AL division leaders with three more games apiece against the Twins and the New York Yankees and 11 against the Astros.
The defeat snapped Oakland’s six-game winning streak and caused the A’s to miss a golden opportunity to leapfrog the Tampa Bay Rays — who lost both games in a doubleheader against the Yankees — for sole possession of the second AL Wild Card spot. Oakland (55-42) is now tied with the Rays for the second wild card, and sit a game behind the Cleveland Indians for the first.
Mike Fiers (9-3, 3.64 ERA) turned in his 11th straight quality start but received a no decision for his 6 1/3 innings of work. Though Fiers had some command issues — he walked four batters for the first time since April 7 — he still held the Twins to just three earned runs, two of which scored after he left the game. He allowed six hits and struck out four.
At the dish, Jurickson Profar continued to make a case that he should be the A’s everyday second baseman, slamming his third two-run homer in two days. Profar’s last two games – 3-for-7 with three home runs, four runs scored and 6 RBIs – coupled with former top-prospect Franklin Barreto’s scuffling bat may make it difficult for manager Bob Melvin to make good on a promise from Oakland brass that Barreto would see consistent at-bats after his June 30 callup.
Melvin also noticed that Profar – who primarily played on the left side of the infield with his former team, the Texas Rangers, in 2018 – has made a nice transition to his new position.
“He looks like he’s more comfortable at second base,” Melvin said. “I don’t know if that has anything to do with the offense but he’s playing well right now.”
Ramon Laureano added three hits and scored Oakland’s other two runs in the game. He has quietly been one of the A’s hottest hitters since the All-Star break, going 11-for-22 with three home runs, three doubles, 10 runs scored and five RBIs. The center fielder has also scored at least one run in nine straight games and has scored 14 runs over that span dating back to July 5.
The A’s held a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning after Profar’s bomb to right field and looked well on their way to a seventh straight victory, considering Fiers’ previous five innings and a well-rested bullpen. That may have held true in one of Oakland’s last five post-break games, but the Twins are a cut above the likes of the middling Chicago White Sox and bottom-dwelling Seattle Mariners.
Yusmeiro Petit entered the game in relief of Fiers with runners on first and second and one out and promptly served up a go-ahead three-run jack to pinch-hitter Eddie Rosario. Petit had not allowed an earned run since July 2, incidentally in another outing against Minnesota and also off a home run.
“It probably crept more toward the middle than he wanted it,” Melvin said of Petit’s first pitch to Rosario that resulted in a home run. “But he’s the guy that’s been doing that for us in that situation all year. Every now and then you’re going to give one up.”
In the eighth, Lou Trivino broke a string of solid outings — he had not ceded an earned run since June 21 in six other appearances — by giving up two solo home runs to Mitch Garver and C.J. Cron. Both homers came on misplaced pitches that Trivino left right down the middle, the first a 98-mph fastball and the second a 92 mph cutter that did not cut.
The A’s will look to even up the series tomorrow when Chris Bassitt (6-4, 3.98 ERA) takes the mound against Jake Odorizzi (11-4, 3.06 ERA).
Profar’s home run extended Oakland’s season-long 18-game homer streak, over which the team has mashed 38 home runs.
Matt Olson singled in the third inning to preserve a 13-game hit streak, his longest of the season.
For the second time in three games, the A’s experienced a game delay due to an injured umpire. Quinn Wolcott was struck by a foul ball that ricocheted into his face mask off the bat of C.J. Cron in the fourth inning and was unable to return after evaluation. Bruce Dreckman would take Wolcott’s place moving from second to behind the plate.