Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman swings at the Coliseum on March 31, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Examiner)

Athletics blow late lead under threat of rain, lose in Pittsburgh

Oakland’s vaunted bullpen stumbles late against Pirates without closer Blake Treinen

As if a late blown lead wasn’t enough trouble for the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night, with the Pittsburgh Pirates scoring three runs in the seventh for a 6-4 win, the already-troubled bullpen received a massive blow when it was revealed that Blake Treinen was unavailable with elbow discomfort.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported after the loss that the All-Star closer felt discomfort in his elbow, is unlikely to be available for Sunday’s series finale and will be evaluated on Monday when the team returns home.

Treinen’s elbow problems were a likely explanation for why Oakland (15-20) pitched Liam Hendriks in the sixth and J.B. Wendelken in the seventh, with Hendriks escaping a bases-loaded jam but Wendelken being unable to get the job done, allowing a go-ahead two-run triple to Kevin Newman.

Wendelken nearly allowed a game-tying homer to Gregory Polanco on a ball that bounced high off the 21-foot high Roberto Clemente wall in right field and went for a double, and the A’s opted to intentionally walk Josh Bell, who had homered twice on the night. Jurickson Profar made a remarkable play to get a force out on a Bryan Reynolds grounder for the second out, but Newman landed a triple down the line in right to bring home a pair and put the hosts in front for the first time all night as Reynolds beat a poor relay throw home by Kendrys Morales to give Pittsburgh (15-15) the lead. Newman came in to score on a Francisco Cervelli single through the hole for an insurance run, which let relievers Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez take care of the final six outs with ease.

While intentionally walking Bell didn’t work in the seventh, Melky Cabrera was intentionally walked in the sixth to load the bases with one out. Reynolds and Colin Moran started the inning with singles and were bunted into scoring position by Cervelli. Seizing the moment with the possibility of rain wiping out the rest of the game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle called on Cabrera to pinch-hit, but he was waved down to first. Hendriks then struck out another pinch-hitter, Jung Ho Kang, before getting Adam Frazier to pop out to end the threat.

Things looked great for the A’s at that point, as the remainder of the game was in question, and when rookie Skye Bolt notched his first Major League hit to lead off the top of the seventh on a double that nearly cleared the fence in right, it looked like the visitors were in prime position to pad their lead. Bolt would be the only batter Keone Kela faced, as the Pirates’ setup man left with shoulder discomfort, but Michael Feliz got out of the inning by striking out Matt Chapman and Khris Davis, eventually earning the win after Newman gave his team the lead.

The late rally canceled out an early A’s offensive outburst as Oakland jumped on Trevor Williams for three runs in the first, with Chapman doubling and scoring on a Davis single. Morales then knocked Davis in with a rare triple as the ball got past a sliding Polanco in right, and Stephen Piscotty’s bloop single to right made it 3-0 before Chris Bassitt even took the mound.

Bassitt wasn’t at his sharpest, needing 97 pitches to get through five innings and surrendering the two homers to Bell — a solo shot to lead off the second and a 451-foot blast off the batter’s eye in the third to tie the game. The A’s would go back in front in the fifth as Chapman tripled to right and scored on a Davis single up the middle, but they wouldn’t be able to add on.

Davis’ homerless drought grew to 17 games, but he did go 2-for-4 and drove Chapman in twice. Unlike his prior homerless droughts, Davis has avoided pressing at the plate, which has allowed him to stay relatively productive even without clearing the fences since April 12.

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