A's dominated by Guardians yet again in ‘tough' series sweep

A’s dominated by Guardians yet again in ‘tough’ series sweep originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The Athletics haven’t been able to touch the Cleveland Guardians.

Oakland’s 6-2 loss to Cleveland on Sunday at Progressive Field concluded a series sweep and sent the season record between the teams to 6-1 in favor of the dominant Guardians.

Against all other opponents, the A’s reasonably are 7-8.

“Yeah, it was a tough series,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said after Sunday’s loss. “Obviously, [the Guardians are] a good baseball team. …

“I mean, that’s what really good teams do. They capitalize on mistakes and this team, from a hitting standpoint, [if] you make mistakes, they end up taking advantage of it. Throughout that lineup, they put the ball in play, they don’t strike out a ton and that’s where we really battled today with getting ahead of guys and not being able to finish.”

The A’s have been outscored 51-18 by the Guardians over their seven matchups during the 2024 MLB season.

Oakland (8-14) hasn’t had the marquee moment against the MLB-best 16-6 Cleveland that it has yearned for, as it didn’t during the season-opening series at the Coliseum.

But that’s not to say opportunities haven’t presented themselves.

On Saturday, the A’s found themselves leading 3-2 in the top of the seventh before ultimately falling 6-3, and on Sunday, they trailed 3-2 in the same inning before losing 6-2 — Oakland simply hasn’t been able to “finish” the job like Cleveland has.

“Back-to-back days with 3-2 [scores] in the seventh, and we let it get away from us,” Kotsay said. “Shea [Langeliers] hits a good ball in that pinch-hit at-bat to left center that doesn’t quite get it, but that would’ve been our big hit to put us ahead in that [sixth] inning. So, it’s been a challenge to get that big hit.

“That’s what this [Guardians] team does, they grind at-bats out. You saw the [Andrés Giménez] at-bat on [Ross] Stripling early. And the 0-2 pitch to [Josh] Naylor, a chance to keep the game at 3-2 and give us a chance. So, yeah. They added on and they did it back-to-back days in this series, and really, that’s the telling story.”

Giménez lined a back-breaking, two-out RBI single to give the Guardians a 2-0 lead when behind in the count 1-2 against Stripling during his first at-bat in the third. Naylor added to Oakland’s misery in the seventh with a two-strike, bases-clearing double to extend Cleveland’s lead to 6-2.

Oakland’s starter, Stripling, was competitive, only allowing three runs and five hits over five innings. But as Kotsay implied, the righty struggled to finish at-bats after having the advantage, allowing two runs during two-out situations.

The loss moves Stripling to 0-5 on the season and atop the list of consecutive games without a win among active starting pitchers (16), surpassing Milwaukee Brewers righty Jakob Junis (15).

Yet the 34-year-old remains optimistic.

“Sorry to sound like a broken record to you, but I feel like I threw the ball really well,” Stripling declared after Sunday’s loss. “I commanded a lot of pitches, had a good plan against- these [Guardians] guys are good — they have the best record in baseball, they don’t punch out, they take advantage of a lot of mistakes as you’ve seen over the weekend.

“I still feel like I could fine-tune a couple things, but overall, I still feel like if I could throw the ball like this, I’m going to have success and keep us in the game like I’ve been able to do for the most part.”

He added that the Guardians’ versatility is difficult to handle for pitchers, as Cleveland can utilize lineups tailored to face lefties and righties spearheaded by stars like Steven Kwan and José Ramírez.

Stripling knows Cleveland has Oakland’s number. But he believes the A’s looked much more competitive against the Guardians compared to their opening-week series and expects his team to keep fighting during their unfavorable East Coast trip.

“This is when we’ll learn a lot about ourselves, on this road trip,” Stripling stated. “Obviously, it’s tough to come here and get swept to start it off, but we were in the game these last two. We’re playing better baseball. Like, we’re playing clean, we’ve been in a lot of games … compared to the first time we faced these guys, right? Where it looked like we didn’t belong on the same field as them, to be honest.

“Now, we’re more confident, figuring out who we are [and] guys are getting more at-bats and innings under their belt. But yeah, this is a tough test going into New York [Yankees] and Baltimore [Orioles]. So, maybe come find me after the next seven games and I’ll give you an idea of where we’re at.

“We’re not going to back down, I promise you that.”

The A’s would lead the mediocre AL West over the Texas Rangers (11-11) had they mustered four of seven from the Guardians.

Fortunately for Oakland, Sunday was the last time it’ll face Cleveland in 2024, barring a matchup in the MLB playoffs.

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