A's Are Own Worst Enemy In Dropping Rubber Game 7-5

They say "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," and that's one thing the Oakland A's do well -- as the A's and their enemy are often one and the same.

The first thing to note is that Gio Gonzalez had great stuff today, yet surrendered 6 ER in 4.2 IP. Staked to an early 2-0 lead in the 2nd courtesy of the bottom of the order (Suzuki double, Pennington RBI single, Sogard RBI double), Gio hung a curve to Andrew Jones for an RBI single in the 3rd. It happens.

The bottom of the 4th, with the A's leading 2-1, is where the team's self-destruction began. With two outs, Gonzalez hit Russell Martin in the foot, then walked Jones on four pitches. Eduardo Nuñez followed with a fly ball over Josh Willingham's head and if you've watched Willingham try to track balls hit over his head, you won't be surprised to learn that this catchable ball eluded him for a two-run double and a 3-2 Yankees lead.

I don't understand why Willingham doesn't play a deeper LF, as he comes in (as well as to his left and right) perfectly competently, but struggles mightily going back on balls. Much as I loathe the over employed "no doubles defense" in general, Willingham is precisely the guy who should be playing that way all the time. But he wasn't, and it stung the A's in a big way. It probably also did not impressed the scouts there to watch him as we approach the trading deadline.

Then in the 5th, trailing 3-2, the A's had a great chance to tie the game. Sogard lead off with a walk, and Jemile Weeks followed with a well hit drive to left-center. Curtis Granderson ran it down and had Sogard realized this was inevitably going to be the result he could have tagged up and gone to 2B. However, it was a fine running catch by Granderson, albeit one he will make every time.

Sogard was given a second chance when Coco Crisp flied deep to LF, a ball Jones caught easily but in no position to throw Sogard out if he tagged. Sogard didn't. And boy did it cost the A's, when Hideki Matsui smoked his third of five straight hits on the day, a double on which Sogard was thrown out at the plate.

Granderson's 2-run HR off Gonzalez, part of a 3-run 5th that chased Gio, made it 6-2 Yankees, and that's how the score stood when Cliff Pennington lead off the 7th with a walk. Why he was running, on an apparent hit-and-run with Sogard batting, in a game the A's were trailing 6-2, is beyond me. Pennington's caught stealing left him 6/14 for the season.

How nice would that 5th inning run have been when the A's rallied for 2 runs in the 8th, and could have tried to score Josh Willingham on Suzuki's double to right-center that made it 6-4? Willingham likely only held at third because he wasn't the tying run anyway, and the tying runs were left in scoring position when Pennington bounced out against Mariano Rivera.

For good measure, with Nuñez at 3B and one out in the bottom of the 8th, Derek Jeter hit a sharp grounder right to Pennington with the infield in. Pennington threw to 1B. Perhaps he didn't field it cleanly. He certainly didn't field a sharp two-hopper well leading off the bottom of the 2nd, when in the transfer to the bare hand, the ball squirted out of his glove for Pennington's 14th error of the season.

The A's sure battled, though, with Weeks, Crisp, Matsui, and Willingham getting 4 consecutive one-out singles off of Mariano Rivera to pin the first ER at home all season on Rivera. How did the game end? You know a mistake in fundamentals has to be involved, right? David DeJesus smoked a line drive to Teixeira, and Ryan Sweeney, pinch running for Willingham, was doubled off.

Ken Korach has correctly pointed out that as much as anything, the A's need better execution. The question is how many players should be executed.

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