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Germán Márquez, Rockies stifle A’s to secure sweep

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The last time Matt Chapman faced Germán Márquez on this exact day two years ago, Chapman hit a home run. He did it again Wednesday, this time on a full count to make it 1-0 in the first.

It turned out to be Oakland’s only run, as the A’s left eight men on base and challenged two plays that didn’t go in their favor as the Colorado Rockies swept the two-game series Wednesday with a 5-1 win.

Oakland had multiple chances to tie or take the lead, but close calls and a lack of hitting when it counted kept them out of the game.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.
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Márquez (W, 1-1, 1.54 ERA, 6 IP, 8 K, 1 BB) didn’t allow another A’s run over his next five innings and finished giving up just five hits: a Sean Murphy single and Chapman’s homer, plus Robbie Grossman had a single and double.

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Bob Melvin seemed frustrated post-game, and rightfully so:

“Runners in scoring position we didn’t do a great job today and that’s pretty much the tale of the game. Unfortunately, they came up with some big hits and we didn’t. Both guys pitched well. Frankie pitched well, Jesus pitched well. Their guy pitched really well, they just came up with bigger hits, more timely.”

The Colorado Rockies (4-1) quickly clapped back in the top of the second after Frankie Montas walked two batters and gave up a single to Ryan McMahon to load the bases with just one out. Stephen Piscotty tracked a ball deep into right-center and jumped up to make the catch — except it never landed in his glove. Grabbing it on the bounce, Piscotty quickly threw it in and only one run scored on the play. Montas was able to get out of the inning tied 1-1, leaving three runners stranded.

Montas pitched better than Opening Night, and Melvin explained why when asked if he saw an improvement:

“Oh, way better. Especially toward the end, he got better as he went along actually so that a good sign. He got command of his breaking ball, had splitter, all the way around, he pitched really well. Up against a tough guy up there. … We took some bad swings off him today and some decent counts, so ya it’s just about getting a big hit when the opportunity was there.”

The Rockies scored again in the fourth. McMahon lined to left and Hilliard followed with a bloop in the gap that got through the hole in the right side infield to put runners on the corners with no outs.

Montas reached 64 pitches at this point and Hampson sacrificed in the Rockies second run to make it 2-1. Vimael Machin, who made his 2020 debut at second, caught a line drive to the chest and threw it to first for two to end the inning. Machin was 0-for-4 Wednesday.

The A’s almost tied it 2-2 in the fourth inning, but a call under review didn’t go the A’s way. Matt Olson walked on four straight balls with one out before Grossman doubled off the wall to right center for his second hit of the night. Olson was rounding third when the third base coach held him at third.

With two outs, Piscotty made contact which sent Olson home running. Piscotty grounded to platinum glove third baseman Nolan Arenado who chose to throw home to get the third out. Rockies catcher Wolters tagged Olson on the play, who was called out. The A’s challenged the call but the ruling stood. A questionable call that could have made it a 2-2 game but instead gave the Rockies more momentum and the A’s still down a run and frustrated.

When asked about the play, Melvin kept it short, saying the umpire said he was out. He asked the media what we thought and when he heard responses that he looked safe, he said:

“Ya, that’s what we thought.”

Prior to the game, Melvin said depending on how well Montas did Wednesday would determine if Jesus Luzardo would come in to relieve or get his first start of the season during the Seattle Mariners series after their off day on Thursday.

Montas pitched five full, an inning deeper than his Opening Day debut which was his goal for Wednesday. Luzardo relieved him and pitched through two outs into the ninth inning, allowing three runs and striking out five in his 2-2/3 innings.

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Luzardo has made it clear he is ready to start and is even more confident on his abilities after today:

“I’m glad I was able to get stretched out and get the pitches that I needed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the outcome that we all wanted but I did get the pitches that I needed so that was good.”

Luzardo said he like his slider was better this time around. He said he thinks his arm is ready after increasing his pitch count from 44 to 67 today:

“Especially after this time, getting my pitch count even higher than it was before. I think I am ready in terms of strength and how I feel.”

Luzardo gave up base hits to lead off the sixth, eighth and ninth innings. In the sixth, Luzardo gave up a single to Arenado then struck out Daniel Murphy. With one out, Semien turned two and Luzardo had to run to first to make the catch but dropped the ball and the runner was safe. Luzardo struck out the next batter and his first error of the night didn’t do much damage. The second one though, would cost him two runs in the ninth inning.

In the eighth, Trevor Story led off and Charlie Blackmon brought him in on a line drive double to left that Grossman had trouble locating it in the corner. By the time Grossman made the throw to his cut off, Story was steps away from home plate to make it 3-1.

In the ninth inning, Garrett Hampson singled to lead off and took second on a Tony Wolters sacrifice. After a David Dahl groundout, Luzardo automatically walked Story after three pitches, bringing up Blackmon with two outs and runners on the corners.

After Story stole second, a sharp liner from Blackmon made its way back to Luzardo after it hit his leg and landed on the mound without a spin. Luzardo lobbed the ball to first way too softly, and Blackmon was called safe. Hampson had already scored from third, and Story broke for the plate as Luzardo’s throw floated to first, and he scored standing up without a play at the plate.

Petit had to come in and get the final out of the ninth which he did, needed four pitches to force an Arenado foul pop to Olson.

Luzardo took full responsibility for the error and said it had nothing to do with timing:

“No, it wasn’t really that. [the timing] I don’t really have an excuse for it. I didn’t have a good grip on it, I didn’t want to throw it away so I. kinda just threw it over there. I thought I had more time than I actually did so that was my fault.”

Melvin confirmed after today Luzardo will get a start, though it remains unknown when he will make his debut.

In his second time out this season, Márquez threw 95 pitches in six innings, going 1-2/3 inning deeper but with practically the same number of pitches as his debut. Besides Chapman’s homer in the first, he kept the A’s scoreless.

Carlos Estevez relieved Márquez in the seventh, and forced Grossman, who was 2-for-2, to pop out. Piscotty was hit by an 82-mph slider and then stole second, but Machin and Murphy couldn’t bring him in.

Jairo Díaz came in to pitch the eighth inning and he got out of a bases-loaded scoreless inning. Marcus Semien lead off the inning with a single to center, Ramon Laureano walked, Chapman struck out, Olson grounded out to second to advance the runners. Mark Canha was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Grossman, who had the hottest bat of the day, struck out on a half swing that yes, he did go around on.

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