We've all seen this game before. Oakland faces a young, unintimidating starter, and comes up utterly empty. It's nights like these when you have to remind yourself that this is a team in the middle of a rebuild (and in this case, remind yourself that they beat Felix Hernandez last night!). When the dust settled, Seattle had come away with a 4-0 victory, the exact score by which Oakland triumphed last night.
If you blinked, you might have missed the beginning of this game. The first pitch was at 6:10pm. The 6th inning started at 7:20pm. That's 70 minutes for the first 5 innings. You may be wondering how two baseball teams can complete 5 innings in 70 minutes. The answer is: 2 batters over the minimum. Combined. The A's managed 2 singles, one of which was eliminated in a double play. The Mariners managed only one hit, but theirs was significantly better: A solo homer by wunderkind Jesus Montero, his first of the season. Tommy Milone and Hector Noesi made a mutual decision not to allow any walks up to this point.
Unfortunately, the wheels came off in the 6th. Milone allowed singles to Brendan Ryan and Chone Figgins, and walked Dustin Ackley to load the bases. Things were looking dire, but Milone is a crafty lefty and is not interested in hearing the odds. He just re-arranges his mirrors, blows a little more smoke, and before you know it, Ichiro Suzuki has popped out and it's 1-2 on Justin Smoak. After working the count full, Smoak watched a beautiful fastball knick the outside corner; unfortunately, home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg disagreed, and a potential inning-ending strikeout was ruled a run-scoring walk. The next batter, Montero, lined a double down the right-field line, plating two more runs. The silver lining came when Josh Reddick and Daric Barton teamed up to nail Smoak at the plate, mercifully ending what could have been a much longer (or, much shorter) inning.
At this point, you are probably asking yourself, "How does a team beat Felix Hernandez one night, and get shut out by Hector Noesi the next?" I'll tell you how: 9 popouts. The A's popped out 9 times against Noesi. That is the equivalent of 3 entire innings. Add in his 6 punchouts, and 15 of the 24 outs recorded by Noesi were either popouts or strikeouts. That is not a winning strategy. Furthermore, it was a team effort; everyone except Josh Donaldson and Cliff Pennington popped out at least once. It was really the defining aspect of the game, for Oakland's offense. Noesi did a great job of getting in on hitter's hands, and the rest was history.
One bright spot of this game was Tommy Milone's performance. Although he allowed 4 runs and took the loss, he pitched much better than his final line. He absolutely breezed through the first 5 innings, except that this time around he added strikeouts to his repertoire. After going 8 innings without a single K against the Royals, he punched out 5 Mariners through the first 5 innings tonight. He continued to keep the ball in the zone and induce weak contact, and even in his bad 6th inning he didn't get hit particularly hard. A timely strike call or a little extra slice on Montero's double, and we'd be lamenting Milone's tough-luck 1- or 2-run loss. He was good tonight.
Other than a solid single from Barton, and a couple good hits from Pennington, I don't have much positive to say about the A's offense. Yoenis Cespedes drew a walk, which is neat. Jemile Weeks continued swinging for the fences in every at-bat, and it nearly paid off; in his final at-bat, he hit a ground-rule double to center. I sure do wish he'd start slapping the ball again, though. He's really good at that.
And that about wraps it up. Oakland fans, this is what we signed up for this season: A team which shows promise one night, and falls flat on its face the next. Before you get too down about this game, remember that we can still win this series with a victory tomorrow.
The A's and Mariners face off in the rubber match tomorrow afternoon; 1:10PM, Godfrey against Beavan.