OAKLAND (AP) — A rare solid outing from the Athletics bullpen wasn’t enough to prevent manager Bob Melvin’s ballclub from clinching the worst record in the AL for just the third time in Oakland history.
On a day when five relievers combined for 6 2-3 scoreless innings, the A’s came up short offensively and set another dubious record in a 5-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.
It is the A’s 33rd one-run loss, most in the majors and the most by the club since it moved to Oakland in 1968.
“We had many games like this where we’re down pretty good and we come back and we just couldn’t finish it off,” Melvin said. “Our fans tried to pick us up and carry us through. It would have been nice to win the series here, definitely, to end the season for them.”
Sean Nolin (1-2), in his fifth start with the A’s, gave up five runs — three earned — and seven hits in a season-low 2 1-3 innings.
Oakland’s bullpen took over after that and blanked the Giants the rest of the way, allowing the A’s to stick close.
“That was awesome,” Nolin said. “(Arnold Leon) came in and pretty much shut it down right away and everyone else followed. Kept the team in the game.”
The A’s scored twice in the fifth and twice in the sixth to pull within 5-4. They got the potential tying runs on base in the seventh and ninth but couldn’t convert.
“When you’re down five runs you have to hold them down and give yourself a chance to come back, and we did,” Melvin said. “We got awfully close. They battled hard. It’s too bad we couldn’t come back all the way.”
Chris Heston won his first game in two months, and the Giants kept their slim division title hopes alive with the series win.
The defending World Series champion Giants (81-74) closed within six games of the NL-West leading Los Angeles Dodgers (87-68) with seven games left.
Heston (12-10), who pitched a no-hitter at the New York Mets on June 9, had been 0-5 with a 4.90 ERA in nine starts since beating Milwaukee on July 27. He retired his first 10 batters Sunday, then allowed Oakland to load the bases when Mark Canha doubled, Josh Reddick walked and Danny Valencia was hit by a pitch. Stephen Vogt then grounded into a 3-6-1 double play.
Heston gave up four runs and six hits over five-plus innings. Santiago Casilla pitched the ninth for his 37th save in 42 chances and 10th in a row.
Billy Burns hit a two-run double in the fifth, and Max Muncy tripled in a run and scored on Vogt’s single in the sixth for Oakland’s only runs.
THE BIG THREE
The A’s honored Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson in a pregame ceremony, when the trio threw out simultaneous ceremonial first pitches. The three went a combined 275-144 (.656) for the A’s between 1999-2006. They were teammates 2000-04 and went to the postseason four times together. Each recorded a 20-win season for the A’s. Hudson and Zito also pitched for the Giants, combining to go 80-101. Each won a World Series ring with the Giants.
Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray is unlikely to make another start this season due to hip soreness. A’s manager Bob Melvin said a decision will be made Monday. ... C Bryan Anderson is expected to make at least one start in the Angels series. ... INF Danny Valencia is day to day after leaving the game in the fourth inning after getting hit on the left elbow by a Heston pitch.
Athletics: LHP Felix Doubront (3-3) starts at the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. Doubront is 2-2 with an 8.33 ERA over his last five starts.