OAKLAND — There were no heroics on Wednesday for the Oakland Athletics.
After walking off each of the last two games — their seventh and eighth on the year to lead the majors — the A’s went down quietly in the ninth against Brewers closer Josh Hader.
After acquiring all manner of pitching at the trade deadline, Oakland’s 4-2 loss on Wednesday can be placed squarely on the offense, which wasted one of Brett Anderson’s best starts of the year, losing a winnable game and falling a game behind Tampa for the second American League wild card.
The Brewers struck first with a second-pitch leadoff homer from Lorenzo Cain, then added a second run on a two-out RBI double from Christian Yelich in the third. Oakland cashed in a leadoff double by Marcus Semien in the bottom of the frame with a sac fly from Matt Chapman, but saw the lead stretch back to two on a Mike Moustakas RBI groundout in the top of the fourth.
“I just got out-pitched tonight,” Anderson said. “I had some balls hit hard, but it was the ground balls that found holes and the jam shots that went in front of the outfielders that did me in.”
The A’s (61-48) got back to within one with a pinch-hit RBI double by Jurickson Profar in the seventh, but he was left at second as Marcus Semien struck out and Nick Martini popped out to left.
Oakland stranded a runner in scoring position in four of the first seven innings, and went 1-for-8 with men in scoring position against starter Jordan Lyles (5.36 ERA) and relievers Matt Albers (4.26) and Jeremy Jeffress (4.54).
Lyles changed eye level and mixed in 29 curves out of his 94 pitches, getting five swinging strikes and four called strikes. He spotted his fastball well on the corners, getting 14 called strikes. It was Lyles’ second win over the A’s this season, after allowing one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings when he was with Pittsburgh on May 5.
When he faced the A’s last time, his ERA was a nifty 2.20. Since then, his ERA has ballooned to 5.36, thanks to a pair of seven-run outings against the Chicago Cubs earlier this month, but Oakland had trouble handling him again.
“He throws to the top of the zone, felt like he was getting a little too many up there, and he’s got a curveball he can throw for a strike and for chase,” said manager Bob Melvin. “He’s an up-and-down guy, just as much as in-and-out. He didn’t throw too many balls in the middle of the plate, elevated when he needed to and took advantage of what looked to be a little bit of a strike zone at the top.”
Anderson, meanwhile, in his second start back since the birth of his son Brody (and first on a regular sleep schedule), scattered eight hits over seven innings, allowing just three earned runs on 95 pitches, 63 for strikes, and pitching through the seventh for the third time this season. He cruised through four in his last start before his paternity leave caught up with him.
“I felt a lot better than I did my last outing,” Anderson said. “Not ideal to give up a home run to the first hitter of the game, but was able to settle down, make some pitches and get back to being fairly efficient, getting us deep in the ballgame and giving us a chance. I just got out-pitched tonight.”
Struggling set-up man Lou Trivino looked strong in recording the first two outs of the eighth, fanning Yasmani Grandal with a 98-mph fastball at the letters, but he then proceeded to walk the next three men and wild pitch in a run before being pulled. With Wei-Chung Wang on the mound, Mark Canha — filling in for injured Ramon Laureano in center — made a very Laureano catch, sprinting to snare a Eric Thames drive in the right-center field gap to end the inning and leave the bases loaded. That would be one of the lone A’s highlights of the day, along with a Robbie Grossman snowcone catch in right on a Grandal drive in the sixth.
“Just lost his command,” Melvin said of Trivino. “Came out throwing hard, throwing a hard cutter, looked like he had really good stuff. Just a tough time harnessing it once he got into the inning.”