The A’s won’t use their recent grueling schedule as an excuse, but it’s hard to think it didn’t play a factor in their performance on Tuesday night.
Playing their fourth game in a third different city in as many days, the A’s offense was quiet -- at Coors Field of all places -- in a 3-1 loss to the Rockies. Sean Manaea was solid but ultimately outdueled by Antonio Senzatela, who tossed a complete game.
You can’t blame the A’s for looking a little sluggish. Over eight days, they played 11 games, including three doubleheaders. Yet their performance Tuesday presented plenty of opportunities -- Oakland collected six hits. It was the clutch hit that eluded the A’s, as they left five runners on base and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, their most at-bats without a hit with a runner in scoring position this season. Their only run came in the second on Tony Kemp's sacrifice fly that gave the A’s an early 1-0 lead.
“We need the off-day coming up,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve got one more game tomorrow that we need to do our best to win and then we’ll finally enjoy an off-day [on Thursday] after what was a pretty grueling stretch.”
Some credit must also go to Senzatela, who for the second time this season stymied the A’s bats. He faced the A’s on July 28 at the Coliseum and held them to two runs over five innings.
“He got better as he went along,” Melvin said of Senzatela. “He throws a slider for a strike whenever he wants to. He threw a lot of changeups. Keeps you off balance, and it looked like his fastball played better and he used it more towards the end. We had him on the ropes early with a couple of situations where we could have done a little more damage and didn’t.”
Kemp was one of the few hitters who did see the ball well off Senzatela, hitting a double in addition to his sac fly. After the A’s found success against Senzatela’s fastball, Kemp noticed an adjustment from the right-hander to lean more on his offspeed pitches, which led to their inability to score as the game went along.
“Some nights you just have to tip your cap,” Kemp said. “He threw his offspeed really well. He threw it at the bottom of the zone. Not much stuff was zoned up. We got him early on some heaters and I think he made the adjustment of going to some offspeed pitches later. Most of us were off balance.”
Given the struggles on offense, the A’s were going to require a nearly flawless performance from Manaea, which might not have seemed like a tall order given his 1.98 ERA over his previous five outings.
Manaea did not make many mistakes, but a curveball smashed by Elias Díaz for a go-ahead two-run shot in the fifth was enough to serve as the backbreaker for the A’s. Pulled with two outs in the sixth, Manaea finished allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings. The left-hander racked up a season-high seven strikeouts.
Though the loss snapped a four-game win streak for Manaea – and gave him his first loss in the month of September since 2017 -- he continues to perform like a pitcher the A’s can rely on in the postseason, which begins in two weeks.
“He’s looked sharp,” Kemp said of Manaea. “We needed to get him some more run support right there. But if we can continue to get him to be like that down the stretch, we’re going to be a dangerous team.”
Though the loss to the Rockies marked the club’s fourth defeat in its past six games, Kemp said it was important to maintain things in perspective. With 11 games remaining, the A’s still sit atop the American League West standings with a lead of 5 1/2 games over second-place Houston.
“This season is very unorthodox -- one that no one can predict,” Kemp said, “and everyone’s body is feeling a different way.
“We’re just battling and grinding. The guys’ spirits are still up. We’re still in first place, and you can’t forget that.”