After history lesson, A's fall just short in extras

April 17th, 2023

OAKLAND -- As players of the 1973 A’s World Series team paraded onto the field in Ford Thunderbirds at the Coliseum for Sunday’s 50th anniversary reunion, every member of the current A’s roster stood atop the home dugout and applauded as each legend walked by.

The grandest arrival came from Reggie Jackson, who starred on that ‘73 club as World Series MVP. A’s infielder Tyler Wade assisted Jackson by holding the championship trophy carried by the Hall of Famer while he exited his car. was behind the plate for Jackson’s ceremonial first pitch.

“I’ll always remember that,” Kemp said. “It’s good to get out and actually respect those guys who strapped it on. What they did is special.”

For a young team filled with players looking to establish themselves, the celebration provided an important history lesson about their franchise’s storied history. An opportunity to rub shoulders with luminaries from that ‘73 team, such as Jackson, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi, who reached successful heights that these A’s dream of one day achieving in their careers.

“Winning is contagious, and it was very good to see those guys out there,” said A’s starting pitcher . “A lot of great Oakland players that I look up to. They did something that all 30 teams are eyeing at the beginning of the year. 

We’re in that same boat, although we’re not starting how we want to.”

Before the A’s can realistically have a shot at reaching such greatness, they must identify which players can help usher in the next era of winning baseball. With that ongoing rebuilding process comes expected growing pains, which continued in a 4-3 loss to the Mets in 10 innings.

Swept over three games, the A’s have dropped 10 of their last 11 contests and are now 3-13 on the season, which matches the worst record after 16 games in franchise history. The 1951 Philadelphia Athletics and 1956 Kansas City A’s also began 3-13.

Sunday provided a bit of optimism from a pitching standpoint. Though A’s starters entered the day having thrown the fourth fewest innings (67 2/3) in the Majors, Sears’ solid outing of two runs allowed on four hits and no walks with three strikeouts marked the second consecutive quality start by an A’s pitcher. Shintaro Fujinami turned in the best outing of his young Major League career in Saturday’s loss.

“It’s really encouraging,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “With Fuji starting it [on Saturday] and Sears going today, the hope is we continue to build off that. Keep getting these guys going into the sixth inning, and that will take some of the load off some of the bullpen guys.”

The effects of a taxed bullpen were evident. Pitching for the third time in four days, was unable to hold a one-run lead in the ninth as he surrendered a game-tying solo homer to Pete Alonso. Later, in the 10th, Zach Jackson, who was also pitching for the third time in four days and had not allowed a run through seven of his first eight appearances, uncorked a wild pitch on a walk of Francisco Lindor that scored the go-ahead run.

“Our bullpen -- you look at the workload -- we’re leaning on these guys right now,” Kotsay said. “We’ve had to cover the starting pitching in some down games. It’s not an excuse. But the reality of it is that [relievers] have been used a lot in these 16 games. I think it’s impacted some of their abilities and success.”

Sunday’s loss also featured an element of bad luck. With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth, came to the plate with two on and one out and lined a ball that appeared to be slicing into left-center. Instead, Brandon Nimmo robbed him of a potential walk-off hit with a spectacular diving catch.

While Kotsay referenced the catch as a game-saving moment, he also pointed to his offense’s inability to cash in on previous opportunities. A’s hitters finished the game with 14 runners left on base, going 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position.

“We’re struggling, and it sucks when you don’t catch those breaks,” Sears said. “Our offense is grinding. They’re here every day early and taking a lot of good swings at the plate. Hopefully, they catch some breaks later this week.”