Rare bullpen missteps snap A's win streak

June 19th, 2021

NEW YORK -- The A’s flexed their muscles with a couple of homers to jump out to an early lead. turned in yet another quality start. This is the usual formula they’ve followed so often this season as they entered Saturday afternoon’s game with the best record in the American League.

But this time, the final step on that habitual pathway to victory went awry.

Handed a two-run lead from Bassitt after six innings, the normally reliable A’s bullpen hit a snag. After Yusmeiro Petit surrendered a game-tying single to Giancarlo Stanton in the seventh, gave up a solo homer to Gio Urshela in the eighth and was charged with another two runs later in the frame that put the Yankees ahead for good in a 7-5 loss at Yankee Stadium.

The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for Oakland, which had stood as the longest active streak in the Majors.

Though Luzardo had been on a tough stretch as of late, A’s manager Bob Melvin showed confidence in the 23-year-old lefty by summoning him out of the bullpen in a critical situation. Jumping out to a quick two-strike count against Urshela to begin the bottom of the eighth, Luzardo fired a 98.6 mph fastball left just up over the middle of the zone that Urshela hammered over the wall in center.

It was the fifth consecutive relief outing in which Luzardo has allowed at least one homer.

“He’s struggled here recently,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “A couple of really good outings out of the bullpen early and the last few have not been as good. Obviously, the long ball has been a problem for him. He’s making mistakes with his fastballs.

“Today, it was one with two strikes that ended up middle of the plate. He’s going through a rough stretch right now.”

Melvin explained that going to Luzardo in that situation was also the result of a depleted bullpen. Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino, two of Melvin’s oft-used relief arms for such late-inning situations, were both deemed unavailable after pitching the previous night.

“We had what we had today,” Melvin said. “The guys that I used were available.”

Despite entering the ninth facing a three-run deficit, the A’s had plenty of reason to believe a late comeback was possible with the way their offense had been going lately.

got things started early by homering for a second straight day with a solo shot to right off Domingo Germán in the first. He was also in the middle of another rally in the fifth, drawing a walk to load the bases just before Matt Olson’s two-run single one pitch later.

Dating back to May 8, Kemp is now batting .318 with six doubles, two triples, four homers and 16 RBIs over 31 games.

“This is Tony’s show right now,” A’s shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “Really happy for him. That kid puts up so much work and is such a nice guy. When you see good people doing good, it’s always great to see. He’s been clutch and doing the job. Getting on base and playing great defense.”

The A’s made things interesting, scoring a run in the ninth off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman on Ramón Laureano’s two-out RBI single. That brought Matt Chapman -- who homered earlier in the game -- to the plate as the potential go-ahead run.

In an all-Chapman battle, it was Aroldis who got the better of it. The right-hander reached back for three straight fastballs of over 100 mph, with the third a blazing 103.4 mph missile that Matt swung through to end the ballgame. That sinker to finish it off registered as the fastest pitch in MLB so far this season.

“Facing Chapman down by three is not an easy task. But we’re going to battle until the very last out,” Bassitt said. “It’s who we are. Any time we lose, it’s a surprise. But the Yankees are a dang good team. Sometimes you bite off too much, and that’s what happened today.”

The loss spoiled another strong outing from Bassitt. Pitching on a hot and humid day in the Bronx, the right-hander pitched through a couple of jams to limit the Yankees’ offense to just two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts across seven innings. It was the first time the A’s did not come out victorious in a game started by Bassitt since May 5, snapping a streak of seven games.

“It was smoking out there,” Melvin said of the warm temperatures in New York. “But to come out with a two-run lead and pitch in the fashion that he did, he gave us a chance to win.

“He pitched great again. We just couldn’t hold it.”