The magic that has been dancing around the Oakland A's all season long was just tantalizingly out of reach tonight. From the rare error to allow a run to score, to the gift run given back, to the runner out at the plate, to the sputtering offense; the A's just could not summon enough magic to win. That said, if I had had the choice, I would never have had Rosales make the last out of the game tonight. I would have pinch-hit either Moss or Crisp for Rosales. After what I've seen from Adam Rosales this week, he's not my choice for two-outs, runner-on-first, down-by-one in the ninth inning. And yes, I realize that scenario probably leaves Cespedes playing shortstop for reals, because I would have had to replace Sogard had Moss not won or tied the game, but it's like leaving the closer on the bench; I just can't do it.
But he was, and he predictably made an out, and that was all she wrote, as the A's scored one run on a bomb by Chris Young, and another when the Mariners literally threw the ball away from all fielders to gift the A's their other run. Bottom line: The A's have depth, but aren't going to win a lot of games with Cespedes banged up, Coco and Donaldson on the bench and Rosales and Sogard both in the game.
Tommy Milone certainly pitched well enough to win, but instead would take the hard-luck loss, as Joe Saunders practically shut out the A's tonight. Joe. Saunders. Let that sink in.
Aside from Chris Young, who was 3-3 with a walk in the lead-off spot, including a single, double and a homerun, the A's had another double, a "double", and a couple of singles, and nothing more. The one inning where they managed to put two hits together, Mike Gallego had a bad call of his own, and had the would-be tying run thrown out at the plate by 5 feet.
Milone pitched out of a first-and-third and no one out situation in the second inning, as the A's opted to turn a double-play instead of going for the run at the plate. Of course, no one knew at the time that runs would be so hard to come by against Joe. Saunders. The A's had a golden opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the inning as Freiman doubled and Norris hit a smash single to center, but instead of leaving the runner at third with one out, Gallego saw the centerfielder bobble the ball and sent Freiman from a dead stop at third. Had he already been running; great. If it was Crisp instead of six-foot-eight Nate? Probably great. But it was a bad call from the get-go, and despite Freiman's terrific slide, he was still tagged out, and the A's would remain scoreless.
The game would stay this way until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Norris walked to open the inning. Reddick hit a grounder and beat out the double play to replace him at first, and Rosales did exactly the same thing. With Rosales now at first, and two outs, Eric Sogard hit a routine short fly ball, which the Mariners butchered. The infielder and outfielder collided, the ball went flying into no-man's land, and Rosales, to his credit, was running all the way, and scored easily to tie the game.
But the Mariners untied the game in the seventh on a homerun by Mike Zunino; his first homerun of his career, to dead-center field, in a night game in Oakland. Be more like Joe Saunders, Tommy Milone. Milone would pitch into the seventh, but the inning would be finished by Dan Otero, making his A's debut.
The A's got another gift in their half of the seventh, as Norris reached on an error, and Josh Reddick nearly, nearly beat out a bunt, avoiding the easy tag and sort of diving/sliding into first to avoid the collision. I think he was safe if he didn't leave his feet, and probably shouldn't have anyway; nothing screams injury like diving headfirst into a bunch of cleats, but I understand why he thought he had to go down. Of course, Rosales and Sogard could do nothing with a runner at second, so it ended up not mattering.
The game was really lost in the eighth inning as Otero opened with back-to-back singles. The A's would get the first out on a fly ball, but Sogard's next play was an inexcusable mental error. Everyone knows Morse is slow and dealing with a hamstring; you throw the ball on a double-play no matter what. The A's anemic offense could ill afford to go down by two runs; it was do-or-die. Rosales got the ball to Sogard for the first out on the ground ball, but Sogard didn't throw the ball until he had stopped his momentum, and then realized how slow Morse was actually moving. Then he threw the ball, and nearly recorded the delayed double-play anyway. Except he didn't, and Freiman missed the next ball (which was smashed), to allow the insurance run to come home.
As a result, Chris Young's gorgeous eighth inning homerun was a mere afterthought instead of the game-tying run that the A's would have loved with a nearly sell-out crowd for fireworks night. After one of the top plays you'll ever see a catcher make courtesy of Derek Norris in the top of the ninth, the Mariners elected to use Oliver Perez to close tonight and he got the A's two chances for a game-tying homerun (Freiman and Norris), but miraculously, Reddick collected a two-out hit. Instead of pinch-hitting anyone; Moss, Crisp, Melvin, the chair in the outfield, Rosales was left in, and ended the game.
Le sigh. We can't win 'em all, and this game was never the A's for the taking. But they had better find a way to beat Felix Hernandez tomorrow against A.J. Griffin; 4:15PM start time.