The Athletics steamed into the All-Star break, riding a league-best 21-6 record. But they sputtered out of it Friday night, falling 5-1 to the Giants in the Oakland installment of the Battle of the Bay.
Facing the Giants (51-48) for the second time in seven days, Edwin Jackson (L, 1-2, 2.93 ERA) suffered his worst start as a member of the A’s (55-43). For perhaps the biggest surprise in a season full of surprises for baseball’s most surprising club, though, even a season-worst wasn’t terrible.
Jackson allowed just four hits in 6-1/3 innings, but the season-high three runs he allowed proved too much for an Oakland offense unable to solve San Francisco rookie Dereck Rodríguez (W, 5-1, 2.72 ERA).
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.
Manager Bob Melvin gave Rodríguez and the Giants pitching staff all the credit after the game, saying that Jackson pitched well enough to win on most nights:
“We score some runs, we’re talking about how good a game he pitched. Really, two mistakes. … He’s pitched really well every time out, we just haven’t scored runs here recently.”
Jackson held the Giants hitless through three innings leaning heavily on the same stuff he has featured all season: an assortment of fastballs with velocities ranging from 90 to 95. While his rangy heater continues to be unsolvable riddle, though, his off-speed stuff let him down in start No. 5 with the A’s.
Of the four hits the Oakland starter allowed, two were the product of elevated sliders and one a belt-high changeup.
Amplifying the few mistakes Jackson made was the fact that each contributed to a Giants run. Andrew McCutchen collected San Francisco’s first hit roping a 3-2 slider into the left-center field gap for a one-out double in the fourth, then scored when Buster Posey flipped an 0-1 slider into shallow center for a bloop single.
There was nothing flippy or bloopy about the Giants next hit, a solo homer (1) that caromed high off the right field foul pole off the bat of rookie third baseman Ryder Jones, appearing in his first game of the season and 54th of his career.
Jones, who had struck out on a 1-2 slider — the second of six registered by Jackson — to end the second, teed off on a changeup that missed about a foot above the intended location.
After hitting the 98-pitch mark in back-to-back starts (season-highs), Jackson’s heater appeared to lose some of its steam when he looked to finish the seventh for the first time since signing with the A’s last month. He fell behind Posey, eventually coaxing a line-out from the All-Star catcher, then slid into a 2-0 hole against Pablo Sandoval who clobbered a 90-mph thigh-high fastball out to straight-away right for his own solo dinger (9).
Jackson, who walked just one batter and has now issued just eight free passes in 30-2/3 innings, said is wasn’t the home runs that hurt but his inability to command and get into pitcher-friendly counts:
“It’s not necessarily the home runs that bother me, more so the counts — execution. … Not necessarily the outcome of the pitch, but the position that I put myself in, when I had to make (pitches) in 2-0 counts.”
While Jackson was busy wrestling with the Giants offense, the A’s were finding no headway dealing Rodríguez.
“Tonight was just a good job by Rodriguez. Some times you have to give the opposing pitcher the headline. He came out tonight; he pitched well; he kept a great team off-balance. His record and his numbers show the stuff that he has.”
The rookie right-hander surrendered just three hits in his 6-1/3 frames striking out five and holding Oakland to a Mark Canha second-inning sacrifice fly. But in an inning that saw them double twice and get a free pass in the form of a hit batsman, the A’s left runners on the second and third scoring just the one.
Melvin, like his starter, was impressed with the work of the 26-year-old rookie:
“They pitched really, every one of their guys pitched well. Their starter was terrific. … He’s got a good fastball, but he’s able to throw all three of his other pitches for strikes too.”
Along with Jackson and a potent late-inning attack, which has yet to return from the mid-season break, the A’s bullpen has been a somewhat surprising source of dominance. But down 3-1 into the eighth, Melvin called upon his middle-inning arms rather than the shutdown duo of Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen. And Yusmeiro Petit suffered a stumble, serving up a pair of runs and giving the Giants breathing room that Oakland was unable to encroach.
But, Jackson said that appears to be a one-off:
“More times than not, you keep us close like that in a game like this and we’ll make do of the situation.”
Trevor Cahill (1-2, 3.10 ERA) will get the ball Saturday against San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner (3-3, 2.90 ERA). Cahill has allowed just two runs in 28 innings at home this season, going 1-0 in four starts. He has also struck out 29 and walked just at the Oakland Coliseum in 2018 — 21 strikeouts and nine walks in 24-1/3 on the road. Bumgarner is 2-2 with a 6.23 ERA in four previous starts in Oakland.
Matt Joyce is expected to begin baseball activity on Monday, according to manager Bob Melvin. Joyce (lower back) has been on the 10-day disabled list since July 5 and began feeling better after receiving an epidural shot before the All-Star break. … Melvin said Friday that he expects to have Daniel Mengden, who threw seven five-hit innings allowing two runs and one walk with Triple-A Nashville Thursday, back with the A’s. He did add however, that the current rotation, which includes Frankie Montas who will be recalled to start Tuesday in Texas, will is secure for the time being. … The A’s have announced that the tarps covering the Mount Davis seats — the third level in the outfield — will be removed for Saturday’s game, with tickets in the section sold for $10 apiece. Melvin said that the team is excited about playing in front of a crowd that is expected to top the 46,028 that attended Oakland’s free game on June 17:
“(The front office has) been pretty creative in a lot of the marketing stuff they’ve done this year, with the free game and so forth, and that was a lot of fun. So, let’s put some people up there — I don’t know what the view looks like. … The more people you can get into this place the better feeling it is.”
The A’s have emerged as the favorite to acquire Mets closer Jeurys Familia via trade, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Familia has converted 17 saves this season and currently carries a 2.88 ERA. In seven seasons, the native of the Dominican Republic native has recorded 123, including a National League-leading 51 in 2016, and boasts a 2.66 ERA.
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.