CHICAGO -- While the A’s continue to fight for a spot in the playoffs, Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field was a prime example of how difficult the path forward will be.
Missed opportunities defined Oakland’s defeat, it’s fourth in a row and third straight in the four-game set in Chicago. The A’s went 1-for-12 on the night with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. They had a walk or a hit in each of the first eight innings but went scoreless in six of them, ultimately squandering what had been a half-game lead for the second American League Wild Card spot after the Red Sox lost to the Yankees earlier in the night.
“We were right there. This is a game we could’ve won,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We just needed one or two more at-bats to do it, and we just didn't do it tonight.”
Facing Lance Lynn, a pitcher at the forefront of the AL Cy Young Award race, the A’s put runners on second and third in the top of the first and loaded up the bases in the third as they quickly ran up Lynn’s pitch count. In both instances, Oakland put runners on base with nobody out, but couldn’t bring a single runner across the plate.
In the first, Mark Canha and Starling Marte were both in scoring position with all three outs to work with in the inning, but Matt Olson and Jed Lowrie both struck out swinging and Josh Harrison grounded out to second. In the third, Canha, Marte and Olson had the bases loaded with no outs, but Lynn again picked up back-to-back punchouts before getting Matt Chapman to pop out to end the threat.
In both frames combined, the A’s went a combined 1-for-8 and struck out four times with runners in scoring position, leaving six runners on base.
“[Lynn was] throwing a lot of cutters and sinkers and four-seamers. Even though the breakdown looks like he's throwing one pitch or he's throwing something really hard, it does have different movements to it,” Melvin said. “He's good at doing that, getting guys on base and striking them out.
"With the amount of guys we had on with nobody out and one out, our at-bats probably could've been a little better, even though he's one of these guys that has the ability to do what happened in the early innings.”
Even when good fortune went in Oakland’s favor, it came at a premium.
With one out in the fourth, Seth Brown broke the shutout with a home run off Lynn to the White Sox bullpen in left. Unfortunately, Brown’s shot happened to come when nobody was on base.
Elvis Andrus later led off the seventh inning with a fly ball to center against reliever Ryan Tepera, and center fielder Luis Robert ran in to make the catch. He slightly overran the ball and slipped as he reached back to try to grab it, however, ultimately allowing Andrus to make it to third. Canha then made it to first on a throwing error and Marte lofted a sacrifice fly to Robert to make it a 3-2 game, but the A’s put no more runs on the board as they now look to avoid the sweep -- and potentially falling out of a Wild Card spot -- on Thursday afternoon.
“It's baseball. Things are gonna happen,” Brown said. “As we move forward, we need to capitalize on those things. This team is very good at that. Up and down the lineup, there's guys that produce, day in and day out, so it's just one of those things. Baseball happens and that's something you just gotta battle every day.”