A's 28-year-old rookie shines, but Braves extend Oakland losing streak

A’s 28-year-old rookie shines, but Braves extend Oakland losing streak

Jared Koenig completed his improbable journey to the major leagues on Wednesday night in Atlanta, and the 28-year-old Aptos High grad showed why he could be around for awhile.

But Koenig’s inspiring major league debut wasn’t enough to keep the A’s from seeing their losing streak extended to eight with an 13-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Koenig held the defending World Series champions scoreless into the fourth inning and took a 2-1 lead into the fifth. But the 6-foot-5 left-hander failed to get an out in the inning, which saw the Braves score four times and eventually turn the final game of the two-game series into a rout.

In the end, Koenig’s line was four earned runs allowed on five hits, with three strikeouts and two walks. But after a dominating start to the season at Triple-A Las Vegas and an encouraging debut, Koenig looked like a viable option for an A’s rotation that has lost Daulton Jefferies to a season-ending injury and soon figures to lose ace Frankie Montas to a trade.

At the very least, Koenig’s arrival in the majors is one of the best feel-good stories of the season.

Koenig was drafted in the 35th round by the White Sox in 2014, but after signing their top picks, including current Giants pitcher Carlos Rodon, Chicago opted not to sign a handful of the late-round guys, including Koenig.

He went back to college – three more in all, including Cal State Monterey Bay – then bounced around with the San Rafael Pacifics and other independent league teams for a couple years before landing in the Australian Baseball League for what figured to be his last chance to get noticed.

Koenig got the attention of an A’s international scout and signed his first contract with a major league team in 2020. Again, Koenig’s patience was tested. He didn’t play that season because of the pandemic, but finally made his affiliated debut last season at Double-A Midland, where he went 7-5 with a 3.26 earned run average.

He was even better this season at Las Vegas, where he was 4-2 with a 2.21 ERA in nine games and was averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

The A’s announced over the weekend that Koenig was being promoted for Wednesday’s start, and for the most part, he delivered.

Koenig allowed a single to the first batter he faced, Ronald Acuna Jr., but the Braves star was thrown out attempting to steal second base.

The Braves made Koenig work out of trouble, getting leadoff batters on base in four of the five innings, but he was able to work out of the jams until the fourth when forming All-Star Ozzie Albies cut the A’s lead to 2-1 when he capped a 10-pitch at-bat with a sacrifice fly.

Koenig didn’t get an out in the fateful fifth, walking Marcell Ozuna before yielding a double to Adam Duvall. Braves rookie Michael Harris II cleared the bases with a sharp grounder just inside the first base bag for a triple, putting the Braves up 3-2 and ending Koenig’s outing. Austin Riley then added a two-run homer off reliever Domingo Acevedo.

The A’s gave Koenig a lead in the top of the fourth inning when, with one out, Ramon Laureano blasted a double off the wall in right-center but wound up on third when the Braves mishandled the ball as it bounced back into play. Laureano scored on a wild pitch two pitches later.

Sean Murphy made it 2-0 with a two-out RBI single later in the inning.

It was the second game in two nights the A’s let a 2-0 lead over the Braves escape. Oakland continues the nine-game, three-city trip on Thursday in Cleveland looking to avoid their second nine-game losing streak of the season.

Former A’s All-Star first baseman Matt Olson had two hits Wednesday and three in the series to help the Braves win their seventh in a row.

– Right-hander Jefferies has thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and first rib are compressed. The procedure typically requires removing a portion of the rib.

The A’s took Jefferies out of Cal with the 37th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Jefferies, 26, made his big league debut in 2020, but opened this season in the A’s rotation. He didn’t allow an earned run in two of his first three starts of the season but was tagged for 23 runs in 24 innings over his previous five starts, raising his ERA from 1.17 to 5.72.

– The A’s lost reliever Parker Markel to a waiver claim by the Chicago White Sox.

Markel, 31, was promoted last week after a dominating start of the season at Triple-A and appeared in three games with the A’s, allowing just one hit and no runs in three innings. But he also walked five of the 13 batters he faced.

Markel was designated for assignment Tuesday when the A’s purchased the contract of veteran infielder Matt Davidson.

– The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that A’s center fielder Cristian Pache is still very popular with Braves fans. Pache, part of the haul of prospects the A’s received for Matt Olson, is very active on social media like Twitter.

“I was surprised to continue to receive that much love from the fans,” Pache told the Journal-Constitution. “It makes me very happy.”

He added, “I feel like I’m together with them (the fans). I love communicating with them on social media. It makes me feel like we are closed.”

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