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A’s suffer historic ninth-inning collapse while getting swept in Washington

A’s suffer historic ninth-inning collapse while getting swept in Washington

If the A’s didn’t hit rock bottom on Sunday afternoon, it’s hard to fathom what’s worse than blowing a five-run, ninth-inning lead for the first time in their 55 years in Oakland.

Jeter Downs capped a six-run ninth with an RBI single, and the Washington Nationals rallied past the A’s 8-7 on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep of the majors-worst Athletics.

It marked the first time the A’s have ever blown a lead of five or more runs in the ninth inning or later since moving to Oakland in 1968.

“You have to let this one go,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “It’s frustrating, obviously, on every level.”

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 13: Zack Gelof #20 of the Oakland Athletics rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) 

Rookie Zack Gelof homered twice for Oakland, which fell 52 games under .500 (33-85) for the first time since going 54-108 in 1979. The A’s suffered their seventh straight road loss and were swept for the 16th time this year — their most since getting swept 17 times in 1978.

Washington, which recorded its third sweep in its last seven series, has won eight of 11 overall and 12 of its last 14 at home. It was the first time the Nationals came back from a five-run deficit in the ninth to win since Sept. 3, 2019, when they scored seven to beat the New York Mets 11-10.

“This team has been relentless,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “They play hard. They don’t give up. You talk about playing hard for 27 outs, and it shows. We’re never out it.”

The Nationals were one of two teams with a big rally in the ninth Sunday; Miami scored five times to beat the New York Yankees 8-7. It was the first day with multiple comebacks of four runs or more in the ninth inning or later since July 9, 2010.

Oakland closer Trevor May, working in a non-save situation in the ninth inning with a 7-2 lead, loaded the bases with one out before allowing Stone Garrett’s RBI single and Ildemaro Vargas’ sacrifice fly.

May exited after walking Riley Adams to reload the bases, and Kirby Snead (1-1) entered and walked pinch-hitter Dominic Smith to force in a run that made it 7-5.

Alex Call hit a sharp grounder that shortstop Nick Allen — who entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning — booted for an error, allowing two runs to score. Downs then floated a base hit to center to score Smith and cap the unlikely comeback.

Downs entered in the eighth inning to replace shortstop CJ Abrams, who had back spasms. He worked a walk to lead off the ninth, then capped the rally with his first hit as a National. He went 6-for-39 for Boston last season, his first in the majors.

“The way it all ended, that’s why we play this game,” Downs said. “You don’t ever think about something happening like that, especially down five. It definitely still feels surreal at this point.”

It was Washington’s fifth walk-off victory of the season and second in as many days. Keibert Ruiz homered on the first pitch of the ninth Saturday and the Nationals won 3-2.

Joe La Sorsa (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for his first major league victory.

The A’s jumped on Washington starter Trevor Williams in the first, starting with Gelof’s first homer. Brent Rooker followed that shot with a walk, and Seth Brown then ripped an 89 mph fastball to right to make it 3-0.

Garrett delivered a run-scoring double in the first inning. Oakland’s Aledmys Díaz had a two-out RBI single in the third to make it 4-1. Gelof led off the fifth with his eighth home run overall and seventh in his last 14 games, and Brown added a two-run single in the seventh.

Williams allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings while striking out four. He has not made it through five innings in any of his last three starts and is 0-3 with a 11.08 ERA and seven home runs allowed in that span.

Williams has surrendered 28 home runs this season, second-most in the majors behind Lance Lynn’s 32 with the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.

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The A’s continue their trip today at St. Louis. LHP JP Sears (2-9, 4.32 ERA) has a 3.67 ERA over his last 16 starts. The Cardinals counter with RHP Miles Mikolas (6-8, 4.20 ERA).