Game #93: Sloppy Defense and Lousy Bullpen Work Doom A's

USA TODAY Sports

The A's managed to still lose to John Lackey tonight, despite scrappily tying the game after initially falling behind through every fault of their own, but the bullpen was as bad as Jarrod Parker was good, and instead of the walk-off victory script we are so accustomed to in Oakland, the Red Sox, behind Lackey and Dustin Pedroia, best the A's in the opener of the series.

To be fair, I did warn them. I said in the game preview that A's had to be all but perfect to beat John Lackey and the league-leading Red Sox in tonight's game, and despite some flashes of brilliance, mistakes ultimately sank the team tonight. It's beyond frustrating, in a game where Jarrod Parker clearly gave his all, and the A's struggling offense, who had gone almost 20 innings without scoring a run, had used all of their grit to tie the game while only managing three hits, the A's couldn't get out of their own damn way. Obviously this isn't the end of the world; it's the first time the A's will end up with a winning record at the All Star Break since 2008, they are second place in the entire American League, and they didn't even lose ground to the Rangers, who were handily spanked by the Tigers, or the Angels (same; Mariners), but it's irritating to lose to an obnoxious pitcher and even more to an obnoxious team, and even more irritating when it's entirely the A's own fault. Well, they probably could have left Dustin Pedroia in a flooded shower in the Coliseum and that might have helped, but aside from that, it's an all-A's blame tonight.

The A's played the worst inning they have played all year in the second tonight, as Jarrod Parker allowed a single to a batter that the Donaldson/Moss combo couldn't throw out at either first or second. Parker then hit a batter and the umpire, CB Bucknor, ending his night prematurely. And then the fun really started. The next pitch was flied to Cespedes, who made; well, not a perfect, but a good-enough-to-throw-the-runner-out throw to third base, and Donaldson played it like he never saw it. Only a sliding stop by Jarrod Parker kept the runner from scoring right then and there. This, of course, allowed the other runner to move up to second, which allowed both runs to score easily on the subsequent hit. Then, for good measure, the A's threw the ball all over the place, allowing the remaining runner to grab third base, but they would pull themselves together and that would be the last run, hit, walk, anything Parker would give up, setting down the next sixteen batters in a row to finish seven strong innings. Unfortunately, he had to come out of the game after that, and I'm going to pretend that he was not limping.

Meanwhile, the A's didn't record their first hit (of the three hits total, mind you) until the fifth inning, but did receive three walks and a HBP before that. Cespedes even stole second and third in the second inning, but it was all for naught, as the A's offense, once again, comes up empty. They showed a flash of life as Smith doubled for the A's first hit to open the fifth. Sogard grounded him to third, Coco walked, and Jaso singled the A's first run in, putting runners once again, at first and third. Donaldson stepped up to the plate and smashed a double to the gap to score both runs. No, he didn't. But that's what SHOULD have happened. Instead, Pedroia backhanded the smash and turned it into a double-play to end the A's threat.

The A's would tie the game on a homerun by Jed Lowrie in the sixth, and all was right in the world for two innings, but the A's bullpen didn't pitch the Red Sox like Parker did. All the A's needed was a couple scoreless frames to give their offense a chance to steal one, but that was not to be. Doolittle allowed a single to open the eighth inning, almost butchered the bunt play following the hit, but finally decided to throw to first, just getting the out, and was bailed out by a brilliant play by Eric Sogard, ranging far into right field, spinning around and making a perfect throw for the second out. With a runner on third and two outs, Doolittle hit Shane Victorino in the hand to put runners at the corners. Might as well have left him in for all the effectiveness of Ryan Cook tonight. After the A's decided that defensive indifference was a good idea in a tie game, teeing up both runners in scoring position, Cook threw the fattest pitch ever to Pedroia, who singled them both in.

The A's couldn't even hit Andrew Bailey to start a rally. Sigh.I really thought the spark would have been the A's escaping a lead-off triple in the ninth by throwing Napoli out at home plate, but they couldn't get another rally started.

So big stage, and the A's played just poorly enough to lose. And I'm now a tiny bit worried about the offense, despite the very stiff competition they have faced. They could use a big breakout game tomorrow night as we do it again, this time without Lackey. It will be Griffin vs. Lester; same time, same place. I will be your host, and we can hope for better tomorrow.

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