Grant Balfour blows first save since April 29, 2012

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Before surrendering a game-tying, two-run home run to Matt Dominguez in the ninth inning of tonight’s loss, Athletics closer Grant Balfour had converted 44 consecutive saves dating back to early 2012, the sixth-longest such streak in baseball history, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Balfour’s last blown save occurred on April 29 against the Orioles, when he gave up a game-tying two-run double to Matt Wieters and then a walk-off three-run home run to Wilson Betemit.

After the Dominguez homer, Balfour recorded an out, then allowed a double to Jonathan Villar and a walk to Jose Altuve. While pitching to Jason Castro, Balfour threw a pitch in the dirt that bounced off of catcher Derek Norris and went to his left. Villar, on second, threatened to advance but ultimately stayed put. Altuve, at first, thought Villar was advancing, so he was about halfway between first and second when Norris fired to first for what should have been an easy second out of the inning. The throw to first baseman Brandon Moss went wide, glancing off of his outstretched glove and dribbling away. Villar raced around the third base bag and easily scored the winning run for the walk-off win. Surprisingly, it is not Balfour’s first loss of the season. He lost on June 23 in Seattle against the Mariners.

Balfour has been a godsend to the Athletics since they signed him to a two-year, $8.1 million contract with a $4.5 million option for 2013. Entering tonight, Balfour had logged 176.1 innings with the A’s, posting a 2.30 ERA with 52 saves. He made the All-Star team for the first time in his career this year. Prior to tonight’s game, he was averaging better than a strikeout per inning with a 1.59 ERA in 39.2 innings. Tonight’s outing bumps his ERA up to 2.03.

Report: Athletics to acquire Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Athletics and Cardinals have agreed on a trade involving outfielder Stephen Piscotty. The Cardinals will receive two as yet unknown minor leaguers in return.

Piscotty, 26, hit .235/.342/.367 with nine home runs and 39 RBI in 401 plate appearances for the Cardinals this past season. He dealt with injuries and with his mother’s ALS diagnosis, so it was a rough year, but very excusably so. The Cardinals had signed him to a six-year, $33.5 million contract extension in March. He’s under contract through 2022 at a total of $29.5 million and has a club option for 2023 worth $15 million with a $1 million buyout.

The Cardinals had an outfield spot open up after agreeing to acquire Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins on Wednesday so the Piscotty trade doesn’t come as a surprise.