OAKLAND -- The way the previous five games on the homestand played out, you almost expected the A’s to put together another dramatic finish. But the late-inning home magic came to an end in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Indians.
After putting together walk-off victories in back-to-back games and three of their past four, the A’s went down quietly against Brad Hand in the ninth, unable to complete a three-game sweep.
Since returning from a brief demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, Ryan Buchter had yet to allow a run in his time back with Oakland. But after Daniel Mengden departed the game in the sixth with one out and runners on the corners, Buchter surrendered a costly three-run homer to Roberto Perez that put Cleveland ahead by three.
Buchter had retired Jake Bauers for the second out of the inning before the home run. Normally, the left-hander would have been replaced in that situation after retiring the left-handed-hitting Bauers, but with a bullpen that had worked a combined 22 1/3 innings over the past four games, A’s manager Bob Melvin did not have a full relief corps at his disposal. Remaining in the game to face the right-hander Perez, Buchter’s first-pitch fastball was crushed over the wall in left-center.
“We only had so many guys today,” Melvin said. “Sometimes you have go through a righty with a lefty on deck. He got the first out but just couldn’t locate the fastball.”
Mengden solid in 2019 debut
Called up from Triple-A Las Vegas in order to give Mike Fiers an extra day of rest after throwing 131 pitches in his no-hitter on Tuesday, Mengden navigated through a shaky first two innings to keep the A’s within striking distance.
The right-hander looked destined for a short outing as he allowed two runs in the first and sat at 52 pitches through just two innings, but he settled in to leave the game in the sixth at 100 pitches with the game tied.
“Maybe he was trying to be a bit too fine early on. They made him work pretty hard,” Melvin said. “He was probably lucky to get out with only two runs in the first and then ends up in the sixth. He recovered really well”
Mengden was able to cut down the walks afters struggling to find the strike zone, issuing three over the first two innings. Not having a good feel for his changeup, he relied on his other pitches to get ahead in the count towards the end of his outing.
“I felt good,” Mengden said. “Changeup wasn’t very good today and against a lefty-heavy lineup, that can be tough to deal with. But we made it work. Just threw a lot more cutters and sliders.”
Olson gets on the board
After slugging 29 home runs in a breakout first full season last year, Matt Olson was not sure when he’d get his first of 2019 after surgery to remove a hamate bone on his right hand kept him out for six weeks. Injuries of this kind have a tendency to keep hitters devoid of their power for weeks, but it took Olson only until his sixth game back to smash his first home run of the year in the bottom of the sixth to bring the A’s within two.
Olson finished the homestand 5-for-23 with a home run, a double and a walk, driving the ball well in his first six games back from injury.
“I feel like I’ve been barreling stuff up pretty well since I’ve been back,” Olson said. “My timing is still a little off, but I wouldn’t be out there if I didn’t feel 100 percent.”
On the road again
The A’s will begin a nine-game road trip on Monday in Seattle needing to play better away from the Coliseum. They’re 5-13 on the road this year after going 1-8 on their previous road trip, their worst of eight games or more since 2011.
While they did not complete the sweep, a 4-2 homestand gives them some momentum as they head out looking to conquer their road issues.
“After that tough road trip last week, to come in and get two series wins is good,” Olson said. “Would have liked to sweep them today, but [if] we keep winning series, we’ll be in a good spot.”
Getting the offense going might be the key. The A’s managed to win four games on the homestand despite scoring only 16 runs, proving they can win in other ways, but Melvin knows they need to start swinging the bats better.
“The offense still isn’t where we expected to be, but it will come around,” Melvin said. “Now we’ll go on the road and hopefully the offense picks up some.”
Return of Khrush
Khris Davis found himself back in the starting lineup after three consecutive days off due to lingering effects of his left hip contusion and went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.