OAKLAND — Blake Treinen was activated from the injured list on Wednesday afternoon, but his inconsistent season continued later in the evening.
Treinen allowed two walks and an RBI single in the 12th inning against the Minnesota Twins, and the Oakland Athletics turned a winnable game into a 4-3 loss.
The A’s had planned to ease their closer back into action in a low-leverage situation after he missed 10 games due to a strained right shoulder, but the situation required him to come into a tough spot right away. Oakland had already burned through five relievers, and they finally had to call on Treinen to help preserve the tie in extras.
“I told him I’d like to,” said manager Bob Melvin about giving Treinen a soft landing in his first game back. “I said if we get into a 12-inning extra-inning game then we might have to use you, and that’s exactly where we were. It wasn’t ideal, but unfortunately it came to that.”
After earning an All-Star berth in 2018, Treinen has endured a tough campaign so far this summer. The right-hander dealt with an elbow issue that cost him a few games in May, followed by the shoulder problem that had bothered him for weeks before he finally went on the IL retroactive to June 21. He’s posted a 4.62 ERA, up from 0.78 last year, and he’s walking batters at more than double the rate he did last season.
Those walks were a problem again on Wednesday, including one to the Twins’ No. 9 hitter Byron Buxton, who came around to score the eventual winning run.
“Looked like the [velocity] was down a little bit at the end too because he was trying to throw a strike, is what it looked like to me,” said Melvin. “Maybe take another outing, try to get him a different look for an inning and hopefully comes back.”
The loss was Treinen’s third of the season, after being charged with just two last year. The loss was the 17th charged to A’s relievers, matching their total from all of 2018 and ranking fourth-most in the American League.
Treinen was only one of many factors in Oakland’s disappointing night, though. A huge defensive miscue by second baseman Franklin Barreto, a blown save by Joakim Soria and a lineup that couldn’t buy a run for 10 straight innings all contributed to letting the game slip away.
The A’s took an early lead in the second inning on a three-run homer by Ramon Laureano, but after that they couldn’t come up with the one more big hit they needed. It wasn’t for lack of baserunners, as they put 14 men aboard after Laureano’s long ball, but they went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position during that span and bounced into three double plays to squander several opportunities.
Oakland almost found the plate in the 10th inning, with Matt Chapman trying to score the walk-off run from third base on a grounder, but Twins third baseman Miguel Sano made a good throw home to nab him. A replay review gave fans hope that the call may be overturned, but the out was upheld.
“Looked safe to me,” said Melvin. “When I went in and looked at it on replay too, it looked like he was safe. I don’t know if they have different angles [at the replay center in New York], or more angles, but it looked like he beat it to me.”
The A’s inability to add insurance runs came back to bite them, as Minnesota slowly chipped away at their lead until it was all gone.
Oakland still led 3-1 entering the seventh inning, but a defensive lapse by Barreto proved costly. With runners on the corners and one out, reliever Yusmeiro Petit induced what appeared to be a tailor-made, inning-ending double play ball. However, Barreto made two errors on the play — one by pulling his foot off the bag too early for the force at second, and another on a wild throw to first base — and everyone ended up safe, including the lead runner trotting home for an unearned run to cut the lead to 3-2.
In the eighth inning, Soria allowed a solo homer to tie the score, snapping his streak of eight straight scoreless appearances. The long ball came off the bat of Jorge Polanco, who will start at shortstop at the All-Star Game next week, and it tagged the A’s bullpen with its 16th blown save of the season, third-most in the AL.
“Tip your cap to those guys for being able to hang in there and fight and win that game. It’s why they’re in first place,” said Chapman of the AL Central-leading Twins, who received their winning hit in the 12th from catcher Mitch Garver.
Lost in the late dramatics was another good outing from starting pitcher Mike Fiers, who worked into the seventh inning and recorded his ninth straight quality start. The right-hander retired his first 14 batters before a hit in the fifth, and limited the Twins to two runs, one of them unearned due to Barreto’s error. He struck out four and didn’t issue any walks.
“Just a great mix of pitches,” said Melvin of Fiers. “Elevating, side-to-side with his cutter and changeup. Another really good outing from him.”
Over his last 13 starts, Fiers boasts a sparkling 2.52 ERA in 82 innings. That’s lowered his season mark by more than four runs, from 8.28 in late April down to 3.87 now.
The A’s will take one more crack at the Twins in the series finale on Thursday. The July 4th rubber match will pit Oakland starter Tanner Anderson against Minnesota’s Jose Berrios, who was named to his second straight All-Star team this week.