San Francisco Chronicle
Things get out of hand in rare lateinnings collapse
Perfection is rare in baseball. Rules that last a full season are few. In 2020, the A’s carried a lead into the seventh inning of 25 games and won every one. They won their first 12 such games of 2021, but the theme faltered in a 94 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
The A’s led 32 after the seventh inning. Starter Chris Bassitt had cruised through the last six but logged 90 pitches. Manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen. Lou Trivino, the A’s leader in saves, entered for the eighth and began by walking Toronto’s No. 9 hitter, Reese McGuire. The inning spiraled from there.
Marcus Semien singled. Bo Bichette’s chopper up the middle netted one out, but left runners on first and third. Trivino delivered a low pitch that got past catcher Austin Allen, who was making his season debut, allowing the tying run to score. The A’s walked Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to set up a potential double play. Teoscar Hernández and Randal Grichuk instead hit runscoring singles.
Trivino, Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit form a trio Melvin has used to protect leads in late innings. Trivino has pitched in half the A’s games and entered Wednesday with a 1.59 ERA. It jumped to 4.15 with two more runs scoring after Adam Kolarek replaced him in the eighth.
It undid a resilient outing by Bassitt. The Blue Jays jumped him with four straight singles in the first inning. Bichette pulled one to left field. Guerrero Jr. hit a chopper that sneaked through the middle of the A’s infield. Hernández hit a looping fly to right; Stephen Piscotty appeared to have trouble with the glare as the ball fell in front of him with Bichette speeding home. Grichuk drove in a second run with a hit to left.
Bassitt retired 16 of his next 17 batters. Six went down swinging. Bassitt honed a slider this spring that he said would help him stay a step ahead of hitters. Entering Wednesday, hitters swinging at the pitch had missed it 63.6% of the time, according to Baseball Savant. Semien went down waving at it to open the game. Bassitt finished four strikeouts of righthanded batters with the pitch.
Little marred his later innings. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. drove a twoout double in the fourth inning, but Bassitt induced a flyball from Joe Panik to strand Gurriel. Grichuk singled with two outs in the sixth, then tried to steal second; Allen, recalled Tuesday, fired a throw to cut down Grichuk.
The A’s built a lead behind Bassitt. Power can mask other shortages in a lineup. The A’s had the fourthlowest batting average among AL teams entering Wednesday but were tied for first in home runs. Ramón Laureano and Matt Chapman hit solo shots against lefthander Robbie Ray to erase their early 20 deficit.
In the sixth, Laureano lined a leadoff double to leftcenter. Matt Olson, who had struck out twice against Ray, moved Laureano to third with a chopper up the middle. With the infield pulled in, Sean Murphy hit a flare that dropped in shallow center to score Laureano. It gave the A’s a lead they could not hold.