A’s finish April under .500 as offense struggles against Guardians

An A’s team that appeared poised to end the first month of the season as one of baseball’s biggest surprises has hit a rough patch as Oakland closed out April with a 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday.

After taking three of four from the Orioles during their first homestand last week, the A’s have lost five of their last seven games and end the month under .500 with a 10-11 record.

A struggling lineup has been an issue for the A’s, who enjoyed their biggest outburst in more than two weeks yet still lost 9-8 on Friday at the Coliseum. In the two wins the A’s have collected over the last week, it was their pitching that propped up the team as Cole Irvin turned in a stellar five-inning start last Sunday in a 2-0 victory over the Rangers before right-hander Paul Blackburn pitched five innings of shutout ball in a 1-0 win over the Giants at Oracle Park on Wednesday.

Irvin turned in another gem with six innings of one-run ball on Saturday against the Guardians, but aside from the continued breakout of infielder Sheldon Neuse, Oakland’s offense continues to be an issue.

After an error from second baseman Nick Allen opened the door in the ninth-inning for the Guardians on Sunday, pinch-hitter Richie Palacios walked through it and delivered a two-out, two-run, go-ahead double.

Washington High (Fremont) product Steven Kwan had two hits in his return to the lineup as the Guardians won their second straight following a seven-game losing streak. The rookie outfielder, batting .354 in his first big league season, had missed five games with a sore hamstring but helped lift Cleveland in his Bay Area homecoming.

A day after the two clubs combined for 17 runs and 21 hits, Irvin and starter Shane Bieber of the Guardians kept it close into the late innings.

It was 1-all with one out in the Cleveland ninth with a runner on first when Oscar Mercado hit a potential double-play grounder to the rookie Allen, who misplayed it for an error.

Palacios then hit a towering double on a 3-1 pitch from Dany Jiménez (1-1) that landed near the base of the wall just past center fielder Cristian Pache.

Elvis Andrus hit a two-out double to give Oakland some late life in the ninth, but Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase worked it for his fourth save.

A night after finishing with three hits and three RBIs, Neuse homered for the A’s in the fifth inning off Bieber.

A’s designate McDonald for assignment

An A’s team in search of additional pitching depth claimed right-hander Domingo Tapia off waivers from Kansas City and optioned him to Las Vegas. To clear space on the 40-man roster the A’s designated outfielder Mickey McDonald, a Serra High (San Mateo) product who made his major league debut last week, for assignment.

Tapia, 30, has 39 games of major league experience and posted a 2.84 ERA in 32 games with the Royals last season, but struggled with command issues during spring training and was unable to secure a job in Kansas City’s bullpen.

McDonald is hitless in four at-bats as a major leaguer, but had the chance to live out his childhood dream in front of family and friends at the Coliseum on April 20 when he debuted against Baltimore.

McDonald, 26, had a .222 average with a .636 OPS for Triple-A Las Vegas before receiving a promotion to the majors. If the left-handed hitter clears waivers, he can remain in the organization if Oakland outrights him to Triple-A.

Trainer’s room

The A’s plan to activate right-hander James Kaprielian off the injured list to make his season debut in the series finale Sunday.

Lou Trivino (COVID-19 IL) will make a rehab appearance with Single-A Stockton on Sunday.

Outfielder Ramón Laureano has been held out of the past few games with Las Vegas because of soreness resulting from sleeping issues. Laureano is serving the final days of an MLB suspension and is eligible to return May 8.

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