OAKLAND -- Cleveland manager Terry Francona used the term “work in progress” to describe the state of starter Cody Anderson, who needed the 2017 season and most of 2018 to recover from Tommy John surgery.
That same phrase actually applies to Anderson’s teammates, who are still striving to reclaim their missing offensive skills, as Friday’s 4-3, 12-inning loss to the A’s demonstrated.
Cleveland closer Brad Hand, who entered the game in the 12th with the score tied, 3-3, yielded Matt Chapman’s leadoff home run that suddenly ended the three-hour, 41-minute contest.
Though Chapman’s 10th homer of the season sealed Cleveland’s defeat, it was impossible to ignore that the offense, which ranked last in the American League with a .219 batting average and next-to-last with a .647 OPS entering the game, nullified an outstanding performance by Cleveland’s bullpen.
Between Anderson’s departure and Hand’s entrance, six relievers (Dan Otero, Neil Ramirez, Tyler Clippard, Adam Cimber, Oliver Perez and Nick Wittgren) combined to limit Oakland to one run over eight innings, while surrendering six hits and issuing three walks. But Cleveland mustered two hits in the final six innings -- and none through the last five innings.
“Maybe if we go another inning, who knows -- maybe we hit two home runs and a double,” said right fielder Tyler Naquin, who went 2-for-5.
Francona maintained a positive outlook.
“The effort’s good, the enthusiasm’s good,” he said. “As long as they keep playing, we’ll be all right.”
Cleveland realized that this game, which opened a two-city, five-game trip, wouldn’t fit the category of business as usual. That’s primarily because Anderson operated under a 70-pitch limit, which alerted the bullpen that it could be forced to work overtime.
Anderson lasted three innings, improving upon the two-thirds of an inning that he worked on May 5 against Seattle in his previous start. Of the 68 pitches he threw, 45 were strikes. Oakland scored on him in each of the first two innings, as Marcus Semien doubled and scored in the first inning, and Robbie Grossman doubled and came home on Josh Phegley’s second-inning single.
“I think we thought 70 pitches was going to be the max,” Francona said of Anderson’s performance. “So he had to work really hard in the third inning to get out of that. He’ll never shortchange you on effort.”
Anderson finished his stint in triumphant fashion, striking out Ramon Laureano on a changeup to end the third inning with the bases loaded.
“I think I showed flashes of making a couple of good pitches in a row, then kind of losing it,” Anderson said. “Overall, I just have to do a better job of attacking the zone consistently.”
Laureano exacted his revenge in the sixth inning by snapping a 2-2 tie with a home run off Ramirez. “Neil left a breaking ball too much over the plate,” Francona said.
Cleveland pulled even in the seventh as Kevin Plawecki doubled and came home on Francisco Lindor’s sacrifice fly.
That left both bullpens responsible for the outcome, which was settled when Chapman and Hand confronted each other. Hand, who owned a 1.08 ERA and a .155 opponents’ batting average entering Friday's game, flung a 3-2 slider that Chapman hoisted over the left-field barrier. It was the first home run that Hand allowed this season after working 16 2/3 innings spanning 18 appearances.
“I knew that I had to throw a strike,” Hand said. “I threw a quality strike in the zone and he put a good swing on it.”