Game #118: A's Miss 1st Place, Walk-Off By Millimeters

Standing, waiting, and hoping. - Thearon W. Henderson

Chris Young came as close as one could possibly ever come to hitting a walk-off homer without actually doing it. But that doesn't change the fact that the A's offense and Bartolo Colon couldn't get it done against the Astros for a full seven innings.

The beginning of this game was a total snooze-fest. Seriously, I was 80% asleep throughout the first five innings or so listening to the game on the radio and waking up at the perfect times to post new threads.

Here's the first two thirds of this game, in a nutshell: Bartolo Colon was very bad, for the second (probably even third) start in a row. He lasted only four innings, giving up seven hits and five earned runs. And bear in mind that he did that against the Houston Astros. He's seemed pretty gassed lately, so we'll see how the starter situation plays out in the next few weeks with Brett Anderson close to returning and Tommy Milone waiting in Sacramento. Personally, I think he should skip a start or two, because he seems to badly need rest and he's pitched so poorly recently that it's not like we'd be losing much.

So the A's were down 5-1 after the 5th inning, having scored their lone run on a Stephen Vogt GIDP which scored Donaldson from third, after he tripled to center field.

Fast forward to the 8th inning, which was where the real fun began. After Jesse Chavez worked into a jam, Bob Melvin brought in Jerry Blevins to work out of it, which he did so successfully by inducing a Jonathan Villar groundout to second, which kept the score at 5-1 Houston.

In the bottom half, Eric Sogard and Chris Young started the inning by striking out to Houston reliever Josh Zeid. Jed Lowrie appeared to be headed towards the same fate before he turned around a battle with Zeid and singled up the middle. He'd advance to second on a wild pitch, and then to third when Zeid's pickoff attempt to second base hit him and caromed away from the infielders.

Josh Reddick brought Lowrie in with a single, bringing the score to 5-2. That brought up Yoenis Cespedes, which in turn put one thought and one thought only in the minds of everybody watching the game from the Coliseum or on TV, or in my case, listening on the radio. And for the first time in what feels like quite a while, Cespedes delivered and did exactly what everybody wanted him to do, belting a 1-1 pitch over the 367 mark in left field, bringing in Reddick and putting the score at 5-4 Astros.

Nate Freiman then came in to pinch hit for Moss, only to be hit by the first (and only) pitch that Kevin Chapman threw. Melvin made the gutsy move of pinch running Coco Crisp, bad wrist and all, for Freiman, who's one of the slowest runners in MLB. Even though the inning ended with Donaldson flying out to center, it created a very interesting defensive situation for the ninth: Donaldson went to first base, and Callaspo came in to play third, taking the Coco/Freiman/Moss spot in the batting order.

In the bottom of the 9th, Seth Smith grounded out leading off the inning, bringing up Vogt, who worked the count full and gave Chia-Jen Lo quite a battle before finally working a walk, bringing up Eric Sogard with one out and a runner on first. Sogard hit a deep drive to the right field corner, but it didn't have enough juice to get out, and that left it all up to Chris Young with the tying run on base and two outs in the last of the 9th.

Then, things got crazy. It's pretty simple, really: Young hit a deep, deep, no-doubt drive to the left field corner that caused Ken Korach to instantly proclaim that "if it's fair, it's gone". Apparently, it was about half an inch foul. Replays show that it definitely ended up on the left side of the foul pole, but some would contend that the ball changed direction just the tiniest bit as it passed the plane of the pole. I personally don't think it did, but I'm sure that there are many who will be convinced that this Angel Hernandez-led umpiring crew stole a win from Oakland for the second time this season.

Bottom line: the A's didn't lose this game because of a blown call. They didn't even really lose this game because Chris Young missed a walk-off home run by less than an inch. The A's lost because Bartolo Colon could barely get through four innings against the worst team in baseball and because the A's, similarly, could only put up one run in the first seven innings against a start who's been legitimately terrible for the past month.

The A's are still 11-2 against Houston, and Texas lost tonight, so the AL West deficit remains at just one game. All the same, though, this one could very easily come back to haunt us. The A's get three more shots, though, the first of which comes tomorrow at 7pm from the Coliseum.

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