Casilla’s ninth inning implosion ruins brilliant start for A’s

Even though the Oakland Athletics looked to be in good shape for a victory on Wednesday night.

Then the ninth inning happened.

Santiago Casilla issued a leadoff walk to Josh Donaldson, grooved a 2-0 fastball to Justin Smoak for a game-tying homer and then allowed a walkoff homer to Kendrys Morales on the very next pitch, giving the Toronto Blue Jays a stunning 3-2 victory.

It was Casilla’s sixth blown save in 22 chances on the season.

Casilla’s implosion sunk another brilliant outing by Paul Blackburn, who held Toronto scoreless over seven innings. Blackburn pitched to contact, just as he had in his previous outings. He allowed just two hits and three walks while striking out three. He also induced a pair of double plays.

Marcus Semien’s two-run homer was the only offense the A’s got on the night. The long ball, his third of the year, came in the fourth inning off Marco Estrada.

Estrada allowed three hits and four walks over five innings, striking out four.

With setup man Ryan Tepera and closer Roberto Osuna having worked the past two nights, Toronto manager John Gibbons was forced to dig deep into his bullpen, but the suddenly anemic A’s offense couldn’t muster anything against four relievers across four innings. Dominic Leone pitched the seventh and eighth, and Joe Biagini was credited with the win after pitching the ninth.

For A’s manager Bob Melvin, there are few alternatives to Casilla in the ninth inning.

Blake Treinen, who was acquired from the Nationals in the Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson trade, has shown promise, allowing just an unearned run over his first six outings. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning on Wednesday.

However, he struggled early in the season after being named the Nationals’ Opening Day closer.

John Axford has closing experience but has pitched to a 6.43 ERA in 2017. Liam Hendriks may be the best option of the veterans. He struggled mightily in June and the first half of July, but has allowed just one run in six outings since the All-Star Break.

Ryan Dull is expected to return from the disabled list tomorrow, and if he returns to his 2015 and 2016 form, he may be another option at closer.

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