Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz didn’t allow a base runner through four full frames. But the Athletics could do nothing with a walk in the fifth, nor could they with two more in the sixth and a leadoff walk in the eighth.
He silenced the Oakland bats through eight, but a Matt Olson solo home run (4) robbed Foltynewicz (W, 6-5, 3.83 ERA) of his date with destiny in the bottom of the ninth. The Braves (38-41) finished with a 3-1 win on the power of a pair of runs in their own ninth, falling three outs shy of no-hitting the A’s (35-45).
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.
Manager Bob Melvin said his team escaped embarrassment:
“Certainly, you don’t want — it’s embarrassing to get no-hit, so you want to get a hit. … It was a key at-bat for us, we just couldn’t finish it off.”
That key at-bat nearly boosted a sleepy Oakland offense off the mat. Olson said that was the goal: to get something going against a guy who hadn’t allowed a hit through eight innings but had walked four:
“Trying to get the ninth inning going, give us a chance to win. Breaking up the no-hitter was just a cherry on top.”
Jed Lowrie followed the homer with a double off reliever Jim Johnson (S, 17, 3.63 ERA), but the former-Athletic blew away the heart of the Oakland order to seal the win.
Khris Davis broke up Foltynewicz’s bid for perfection, leading off the fifth with a walk after falling behind 1-2. But, he was left at first.
Franklin Barreto and Matt Joyce worked back-to-back one-out walks in the sixth. But they were left at second and first respectively.
Rajai Davis led off the eighth with his own free pass, and stole second to help get things kick started. He, again, was left where he stood. Not only did Foltynewicz keep the A’s at bay, he kept it from making productive outs.
Catcher Bruce Maxwell said Foltynewicz made things hard on his club, using his high-90’s fastball and assortment of breaking balls to stay off the center of the A’s bats:
“(We) just didn’t seem like we could square anything up, and when we did it was at people. All-in-all, everything went in his favor tonight until Olson’s homer.”
Olson appeared to have broken up the no-hitter in the fourth, before it was ever a thought. After taking a changeup well off the plate away to even the count at 2-2, the left-handed swinging first baseman attacked a fastball mere inches closer to the zone — still very much outside — sending a screaming liner down the left field line.
What looked off the bat to be an extra-base hit ended up being nothing more than a chance for Braves left fielder Danny Santana to show off impressive range, as he flagged it down with ease.
Easy is exactly how Foltynewicz made it look, allowing a Rajai line-out to Santana to be the only additional solid contact mustered by the A’s until Olson’s breakthrough in the ninth. The 25-year-old hurler finished with eight strikeouts to go with the one hit and one run in his 8 innings of work.
Through all the dominance, though, Foltynewicz was barely able to best Sonny Gray.
Gray (L, 3-4, 4.09 ERA) produced his best start in nearly two full years, tossing 8 dominant innings. But a single stumble was all he needed to become a tough-luck loser.
“He threw great. It’s a shame that we couldn’t really get anything going for him.”
While it was the starter who took the decision, the deciding runs were scored to the record of Sean Doolittle, who allowed a walk and two RBI singles to Brandon Phillips and Matt Kemp in the ninth.
Gray’s came packed into one five-pitch stretch, at the hands of a pair of Atlanta rookies.
After a Johan Camargo double leading off the third, the first hit of the game, Gray got Jace Peterson to ground-out to Olson at first on an 0-1 sinker at the knees. But Dansby Swanson sent a liner over Rajai in left field for an RBI double ending his personal 0-for-12 hitless streak.
From there, Gray was untouchable. Following a leadoff walk in the fourth, the only other base runner he would allow, with an inning-ending double play. The A’s ace did that a lot — coaxing ground balls. Fourteen of the 18 outs he recorded came on the ground, with the other four coming on strikes.
“He was unconscious tonight — everything was working with him, he wasn’t missing spots. The one hit early in the game to score a run, but other than that he bounced right back and he really was spectacular tonight.”
The skipper added:
“He was good. He’s been consistent with his stuff, finally got great results tonight. Usually, when you give up two hits and one run, you’re talking about, after the game, what a great game he pitched.”
Gray, though, took the loss in stride, saying that he would be more than happy to continue to his roll,taking his chances that another 8-inning, one-run would net him a win:
“He was just a little bit better tonight. You’re going to be on this end of some games and hopefully, over the course of the season, you can be on the other end.”
The A’s will take their hacks against the knuckleballer RA Dickey (6-5, 4.63 ERA) in a Saturday matinee. Oakland will counter with yet another youngster making his big league foray. Paul Blackburn will be the seventh Athletic to make his debut in 2017.
Right-hander Paul Blackburn will make his major league debut Saturday. The No. 22 prospect in the A’s system, according to MLB.com, will get the start in place of Jharel Cotton, who was scratched due to blisters. Blackburn had been 5-6 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds this season. … The A’s have now gone 4,139 games since last being no-hit. That is the longest active streak in majors and the fourth-longest in American League history.
Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.