A's 13-game win streak comes to an end

Luzardo recorded eight strikeouts to keep Oakland in the game

April 25th, 2021

The A’s rode an incredible wave to historic heights. After two weeks, that wave finally came crashing down.

Jesús Luzardo did his best to keep the A’s in position to extend their hot streak. But a surging A’s offense was stymied by John Means in Sunday’s 8-1 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards. The A’s first defeat since April 8 snapped a 13-game winning streak, which now stands as the third longest since the club moved from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968.

In the immediate aftermath of the streak’s conclusion, manager Bob Melvin was reflective of what has been one of the more dramatic turnarounds for a team in quite some time. Earlier this week, the A’s became the first club in Major League history to start a season 0-6 and win 11 straight games at any point in that season, sparking the “Ride the Wave” mantra that is now their rallying cry.

“We got off to a tough start that did not go our way and went just the opposite after that,” Melvin said. “When you have a veteran group that has been through it before, they really don’t get too down. They got more upset than anything else after the first week, and then we went on a nice run. We’ll try to start one again tomorrow.”

A’s hitters routinely made life difficult on opposing pitchers during the 13-game streak. They outscored teams, 81-36, over that period, slugging 24 homers and averaging 6.23 runs per game. On Sunday, Means made sure to keep those same bats off balance from the jump.

Aside from Ramón Laureano’s game-tying solo shot in the fourth, the A’s struggled to make hard contact against the left-hander. In 6 1/3 innings against Means, A’s hitters averaged an exit velocity of just 79 mph on 14 balls put in play, according to Statcast.

Even after Means departed, the A’s fortunes did not improve. The A’s recorded one single through the game’s final 2 2/3 innings, finishing the day with just three hits.

“He was working quick,” third baseman Matt Chapman said of Means. “He was locating his fastball to both sides of the plate and was able to throw that changeup whenever he needed to make a big pitch.

“We’ve been playing really good baseball. Eventually, we were bound to lose a game. We ran into a guy that was throwing well today.”

Luzardo’s tough-luck loss came in arguably his best start of the year to date. The left-hander turned in his longest outing of the season, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks while matching a season-high eight strikeouts.

His three runs allowed came down to two mistake fastballs. Twice Luzardo missed location on 95 mph heaters that sailed over the heart of the strike zone against Austin Hays. Both times, Hays crushed them -- for a solo homer in the second and a go-ahead two-run blast in the third. In fact, Luzardo’s five hits allowed through his first six innings all came off the bats of Hays and Cedric Mullins.

“Just two balls that got centered,” Melvin said. “The home run has bit him a little bit. But again, his stuff was really good and he kept us in the game. He did his job. We just couldn’t do enough offensively.”

The A’s entered 2021 hopeful that Luzardo could emerge into the ace of the staff. The electric stuff remains there -- he generated 16 whiffs and maxed out his fastball at 97.8 mph on Sunday. The 23-year-old’s final hurdle is to develop consistency by stacking together quality starts, something that has proved to be a difficult task for him in his young career.

Sunday’s outing marked his second consecutive strong performance, following up a start in which he went 5 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed just two hits in a win over the Twins his last time out.

“He loves to pitch. He can’t wait for his pitch day,” Melvin said. “He wants to throw a shutout every time and get to the end. It’s just about putting together consistent outings and trying to not center your misses. That’s the only thing that got him today -- the two home runs.”

What was a close game for most of the day turned into a blowout in the eighth after the Orioles tagged the A’s bullpen for a five-run inning that was exacerbated by a two-out error by Elvis Andrus on a ground ball.

It was a quiet end to the streak. But the momentum generated from it has these A’s excited about the position they’re in as they look to defend their American League West title this season and spark a deep playoff run.

“Once we get hot, we get rolling,” Chapman said. “I don’t know if we would have predicted we would win 13 in a row like that, but who would have thought we would lose six in a row to start the season? It all evened itself out. We’re right where we need to be to make a run at this thing.”