The A’s have become accustomed to seeing home runs fly out of the Oakland Coliseum this season, but it’s usually off their own bats. That was not their experience in Tuesday’s playoff loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Led by three long balls and a gem from ace Lucas Giolito, the White Sox strolled into Oakland and came away with a 4-1 win in Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series over the second-seeded A’s.
Oakland rallied in the eighth to avoid the shutout, but the A's only managed to plate the lone run and finished the game with a total of three hits.
Here are three things to know as the A’s now face elimination in the MLB playoffs.
From the first batter he faced, it was clear that White Sox starter Lucas Giolito had a game plan. He fed A’s hitters a heavy diet of high fastballs and one batter after another went chasing.
Oakland’s bats went quiet a week before the playoffs began, but nothing like what we saw in Game 1 on Tuesday. Giolito sent the first 18 A’s hitters back to the dugout without a hit before Tommy La Stella finally dribbled a grounder up the middle for a single to open up the seventh.
Giolito was spectacular, pitching seven innings of nearly perfect baseball. He came back out to start the eighth and quickly gave up a walk and a single before handing the reins over to the bullpen with men on first and third and a 4-0 lead.
The A’s understood coming into this series that the White Sox ate up left-handed pitching. In the regular season, Chicago posted a 14-0 record against southpaws and that carried over into game one.
In his first playoff start, 22-year-old Jesús Luzardo had good stuff, but he made a couple of mistakes early that cost his team dearly. A second-inning blast by Adam Engel got the Sox on the board and a two-run shot from Jose Abreu in the third was enough for manager Bob Melvin to get J.B. Wendelken up in the pen.
Luzardo showed his youth, especially on the pitch to Abreu. His future is bright, but it wasn’t his day and the cards clearly were stacked against him.
Keeping it close
Without any question, Oakland’s bullpen is one of the strongest in MLB and they came up big in Game 1. With Luzardo lasting just 3 1/3, Melvin received a spectacular performance from one of his unsung heroes in Wendelken.
The 27-year-old right handed put the White Sox’s bats in neutral for 2 2/3 innings, yielding just one hit and striking out three to keep the game close.
Overall, the A’s bullpen of Wendelken, Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria and Jake Diekman gave up a total of three hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings. They kept Oakland within striking distance, but the bats never arrived for the home team.