CLEVELAND, Ohio — Thursday’s game between the Indians and Athletics got surreal in the ninth inning when the home fans booed a Cleveland pitcher for striking out an Oakland batter.
Indians pitchers had already issued a season-high 10 walks and hit three A’s batters in what became an eventual 17-0 loss to the Athletics at Progressive Field. It was the biggest margin of defeat this season for Cleveland, surpassing an 18-5 setback to the Orioles on June 6, and it tied for the third-largest shutout loss in club history.
But A’s third baseman Matt Chapman had a chance to tie a major league record in the ninth when he stepped to the plate against Cleveland reliever Blake Parker. Chapman had walked a career-high five times and tied Oakland’s single-game franchise record for walks without an official at-bat held by Jose Canseco and Max Bishop.
A sixth walk would have tied Jimmy Foxx, Jeff Bagwell, Andre Thornton and Bryce Harper for the all-time MLB mark.
Instead, Parker whiffed Chapman on four pitches, and what remained of the crowd of 16,559 voiced their displeasure. The last time Indians pitchers walked an opposing batter five times in a single game, it was Mo Vaughn of Boston on Aug. 7, 1994.
But there were plenty of walks for them to see prior to Chapman’s disappointing strikeout.
Indians starter Eli Morgan created his own trouble in the second inning when he hit leadoff batter Mitch Moreland and walked Josh Harrison. Sean Murphy then put Oakland in front when he sent a two-run double into the left field corner.
Chapman followed with the first of his five walks, but it looked like Morgan was going to get out of the inning after he got Seth Brown on a pop to third and Elvis Andrus on a fly to center. But Mark Canha reached on a fielder’s choice grounder when shortstop Amed Rosario was late getting the ball to Andres Gimenez at second base. That allowed Murphy to score from third and pushed Oakland’s lead to 3-0.
Acting manager DeMarlo Hale said Morgan’s 28-pitch second inning was uncharacteristic of the young righty.
“It was evident early that he didn’t have his command and I saw his changeup was up a little bit, too,” Hale said. “He didn’t throw it a lot, but I saw it was up.”
Morgan settled down and worked a scoreless third, but ran into trouble again in the fourth when he issued a leadoff walk to Chapman and a base hit to Andrus. Starling Marte’s RBI double scored a pair and ensured that Morgan would not come back out for the fifth. The rookie right-hander had pitched at least five innings in each of his previous seven outings.
Instead, Cleveland reliever Justin Garza came on and served up a leadoff home run to Mitch Moreland in the fifth before walking the next three batters he faced. Garza allowed four earned runs and did not retire a batter, leaving the bases loaded for rookie left-hander Francisco Perez, who made his major league debut in an untenable situation.
Perez retired Seth Brown on a foul pop, but walked Andrus to force in a run, and later gave up RBI singles to Marte and Matt Olson.
Hale said Garza had trouble commanding the ball, which was a surprise, and that he thought Perez and Young threw the ball well despite the results.
“We’re just trying to stretch as much as we can to get outs,” Hale said. “It got the point where we were trying to get outs and get through this.”
Meanwhile, Oakland starter Chris Bassitt did nothing to hurt his chances at an American League Cy Young Award. He dominated Indians hitters over six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
Bassitt, a Toledo native who pitched at the University of Akron, had about 100 friends and family at the game cheering him on.
“Everybody put on a show,” Bassitt said. “Our hitters were pretty ridiculous today.”
Indians hitters went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded four men on base, but were unable to take advantage of opportunities in the sixth when Owen Miller grounded into a double play and Oscar Mercado did the same in the seventh.
Hale said Bassitt worked some quick innings against Indians hitters and was able to keep his pitch count low.
“He was in the zone and he kind of keeps you honest with that breaking ball,” Hale said. “It kind of slows you down a little bit and speeds you up.”
Next Cleveland embarks on a six-game road trip beginning with a weekend series in Detroit that starts Friday. Right-hander Zach Plesac (6-4, 4.84 ERA) will start for the Indians while lefty Tyler Alexander (2-1, 4.35) starts for the Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. at Comerica Park. The game will air on Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM 1100 AM, WMMS 100.7 FM and the Indians Radio Network.