In this recent cold stretch, the A's have lost a lot of games where they've simply been outplayed, haven't shown up, and haven't been the better team on the field. Tonight wasn't one of those nights, though, and that's what makes this loss so frustrating. Bartolo Colon turned in a quality start, Josh Donaldson had the third four-hit game of his career, and the A's put together a great extra-inning rally, and still came up short.
I wrote a bit of a lengthy recap tonight, so here's what I did for those of you not interested in the less significant play-by-play details: if I think a paragraph is important to your understanding of what happened in tonight's game, the first clause of the paragraph's opening sentence will be in bold. Those paragraphs without bold text in the opening sentence are interesting (I like to think so, anyway) but relatively unimportant in terms of meaningful game action. Let me know if that system is helpful or if I'm doing too much.
Bartolo Colon started the game off in spectacular fashion, facing just 10 batters through the first three innings. He walked one batter on the night, giving up just four hits but allowing three earned runs nonetheless. He ended up pitching six complete innings, all of which were great except for the three-run 4th.
With Colon cruising early, Michael Taylor unfortunately gave A's fans yet another excuse to dislike him. It's probably a moot point, anyway, with Coco Crisp returning from injury tomorrow and Chris Young slated to be back in the lineup on Friday night against Kansas City. Taylor was probably getting optioned back to Sacramento tomorrow as it is, but now he's not leaving on the most positive of notes. [Update, 11:21 PM: Taylor has indeed been optioned to AAA Sacramento].
But Taylor was in the lineup tonight, playing right field, and when Adrian Beltre hit a shallow fly ball down the right field line in the 4th inning, Taylor did two things wrong: First, he took a questionable route to the ball, starting out moving a lot further to his left than he needed to be, and ended up taking a long, gently curving arc to the spot that ball was headed for instead of just making a beeline for it. He still came close — he slid and missed the ball by about 18 inches, but slid past it, forcing second baseman Jed Lowrie to field the ball. By the time he played it back to the infield, Elvis Andrus had advanced from first to third and Beltre was standing on second base.
Andrus then scored on Nelson Cruz's sac fly to Taylor in deep right. Mitch Moreland did even more damage, though, homering to right center, scoring Beltre. The ball didn't seem to have enough right off the bat, but it got out somehow, defying the age-old Coliseum standard of deep fly balls dying at the track on cooler evenings.
The A's fought back quickly, using singles from Seth Smith and Nate Freiman and Michael Taylor's first career walk to load the bases with none out in the bottom half of the 5th. Adam Rosales did his best to kill the rally, grounding into a 6-4-3 double play on the second pitch of his at bat, trying to pull a pitch on the outside half of the plate that could've gone for a bases-clearing double if he had taken it the other way. The run scored on the DP, leaving Freiman at third. Jed Lowrie's double quickly scored the run, bringing the A's within a run and leaving the score at 3-2 after five complete.
In the top of the 6th, Lance Berkman hit a triple to center field on a ball that Yoenis Cespedes misplayed — he just couldn't seem to pick a direction to face as he chased the ball to the wall, and Berkman did a great job running the bases aggressively to stretch the double into a triple. Rosales made it a moot point, though, fielding Adrian Beltre's subsequent ground ball and throwing a strike to Derek Norris waiting at the plate, who applied the tag in plenty of time to get Berkman.
They picked up where they left off in their half of the 6th inning, with the red-hot Josh Donaldson lining a double to left field, quickly advancing to third base on Derek Norris' groundout. Luke Montz hit a fly ball to Leonys Martin in center that ended up being just barely deep enough to score Donaldson on a close play. Smith singled, chasing Holland from the game and leaving Freiman to face Robbie Ross. Freiman didn't miss a beat, though, lining another double to left field and scoring Smith, giving the A's the lead for the first time in the ballgame.
The score held at 4-3 until the top of the 8th inning, when Ryan Cook gave up a leadoff single to Elvis Andrus. Beltre then singled on a grounder through the hole, and Andrus' huge head start from the hit-and-run play allowed him to make it to third easily. Nelson Cruz came up with his second RBI sac fly of the game, scoring Andrus on a deep fly ball to center and leaving the game at in a 4-4 deadlock headed to the bottom of the 8th.
In the bottom half, Brandon Moss, in for Freiman, took a pitch off of his right elbow with two outs, giving the A's a baserunner with two outs and Barton, who had entered the game for Taylor, hitting. BTW, see my little aside about Melvin's unorthodox subs in the next paragraph. But to continue, Barton got thrown out on an extremely close play at first base after hitting a grounder to Andrus at shortstop. I think that D.J. Reyburn, umpiring at first base, got the call right, but it was so close that he honestly might have just guessed, because the difference between safe and out on this one was probably less than a tenth of a second. But Melvin was very unhappy about that call and got himself ejected pretty quickly, leaving bench coach Chip Hale to run the show for the rest of the night.
So, the subs: Melvin made those switches in an interesting way, pinch-running both Moss and Barton for Freiman and Taylor, respectively, in the 7th inning. I'm not sure what the advantage is in not waiting until the A's took the field to sub in Barton, since Taylor is probably faster, but that's how Melvin did it. I'm not sure that I've ever seen two pinch-runners subbed in simultaneously before.
So we went to extra innings, and it didn't take long for A's reliever Chris Resop to give up two runs and the lead to Texas. I would've stuck with Balfour for a second inning, but Chip Hale, managing for Melvin, elected to make the switch. Both runs came in the form of solo homers — the first was an Adrian Beltre blast to left-center field, and Mitch Moreland extended Texas' lead on a ball about 20 feet to the right of Beltre's. Needless to say, probably not a good outing for Chris Resop, who's on the hot seat lately — there are relievers in Sacramento who'd love his job, and the way he's pitched so far in 2013 means that one might get it.
The A's were never going to go down without a fight, though. Donaldson couldn't stay perfect leading off the inning, flying out to center, but consecutive walks issued by Joe Nathan to Norris and Jaso put the winning run at the plate in the form of Smith. Everybody's favorite former Eli Manning backup dropped a double into shallow center field, scoring Norris and moving Jaso to third.
Ron Washington decided to walk Moss, giving Daric Barton a shot to tie or win the game with the bases loaded and one out, down by a run. Barton put together a terrific battle with Nathan, even though he swung at a 2-1 and one of several 2-2 deliveries that were out of the zone, pretty out of character for him. Eric Sogard pinch-hit for Adam Rosales, because the A's love taking righty/lefty with mediocre hitters way too far, and laced the first pitch he saw to the hole on the right side of the infield. Ian Kinsler was standing in the hole, though, and he flipped the ball to first to give Texas a 6-5 victory.
This was a frustrating one, to be sure. Resop's horrible 10th inning stands out — I would've had Balfour pitching, but on top of that, Resop just hasn't been too productive since the first few weeks of the season. I think it's time for Hideki Okajima to get a shot in Oakland, and that scenario may have just come closer to being a reality.
How about Josh Donaldson, though? 4-for-5 and consistently outstanding defense are making the Rainmaker a force to be reckoned with in the American League. All-Star voting doesn't actually reflect who the All-Stars should be, but if it did, I think we'd see Donaldson playing in mid-July in Queens.
The A's try for the series win tomorrow afternoon at 12:35. It's Dan Straily for Oakland, and Alexi Ogando for the Rangers. Alex Hall has the coverage on AN — see you then! I think I might take advantage of the fact that I have absolutely nothing to do tomorrow and make it to my first game of the year at the Coliseum, so hopefully the A's make it worth my while. Look for Coco Crisp to make his return, too.