Game #3: Wanted: Closer

Thearon W. Henderson

Well, technically, I think this is game #2, and this evening's game was #3, but I confused myself, so just went with Game #2 and Game #3 in order. So Game #2 = day, Game #3 = night. But it doesn't matter, does it? What you need to know is that the A's won the first game easily, and were in line for a second win--and the rare doubleheader sweep--until their closer came in, and not only allowed the tying run, but also put the A's an additional 2 runs behind.

After a 6-1 win earlier today to even the series with the Indians--in a game that was never in question; it was all-A's from the very first pitch--the A's took the field for the second game of the doubleheader, throwing Josh Lindblom as their 26th-man, a rule that is employed in the second game of a doubleheader. Because the A's play 7 games in 6 days, they had to burn a starter today in order to keep the rotation on regular rest.

Lindblom provided exactly what the A's needed; they were probably looking for 5 innings; 2-3 runs allowed. He went 4.2, allowing 5 hits, and a 2-run homerun in an all-but-emergency spot start, and left in a tied game. The seesaw battle of the bullpens continued until the A's secured the upper-hand, and were three outs away from a one-run win, and a doubleheader sweep with the new closer on the mound. Unfortunately for everybody except the Indians, for the second time in the series--and the second time in the A's first three games--Jim Johnson was singlehandedly responsible for the A's loss, besting his record from Monday night by allowing three runs, and it could have been more had Scribner not cleaned up and finished the ninth. Small sample size and all that, but that's two losses in three games, and tonight's game, the A's had dead to rights.

The loss erases a truly great game by Sam Fuld, who was brilliant in the leadoff spot, going 2-4 with a walk. The A's offense was much better earlier in the day; replacements Punto and Barton in the second game provided very little at the bottom of the lineup, and Josh Donaldson's 0-9 day in the 2-hole was glaringly obvious by the second game. But it's hard to pick at the offense; they scratched their way to a 4-3 lead by the end of the game, and that should be enough to win with the bullpen the A's are supposed to have.

The A's got on the board early again tonight, as Fuld tripled to lead off the game, and Lowrie singled him in after Donaldson struck out. A Cespedes double drove in the A's second run, and they held the lead until the Cleveland 2-run homerun in the fourth; the only runs that Lindblom allowed. The A's would take the lead again in the bottom of the fourth, as Reddick lined a one-out single and Punto walked. After Barton got out, Fuld would drive in the A's third run.

Gregerson would blow the A's first hold, after he replaced Drew Pomeranz, who replaced Lindblom. A replay call in the 6th on a runner stealing second was overturned as the runner was initially called out, but overturned as the replay showed a missed tag. That would put a runner on second with one out, instead of no one on and two outs, but the inning ended with no further Cleveland damage. The damage was done in the seventh with a walk, a stolen base, a single and a ground-out as the Indians tied the game.

The A's would come right back in their half of the inning as Donaldson reached on a one-out pop fly that was completely dropped by the Indians' outfield. A wild pitch moved the runner to third, and with two outs, Moss hit the ball to the first base side, went past the first baseman, and the shifted second baseman threw from the outfield to the pitcher Bryan Shaw, but Shaw took his eyes off the throw, and the run scored while Moss busted it to first base to score the A's fourth run.

Doolittle pitched a scoreless 8th, and we all wished the game had ended right there. Instead, Jim Johnson, who left to a chorus of boo's on Monday night, left in the same fashion today, as he allowed back-to-back singles to open the ninth; a slowly hit ground-out for the first out, leaving runners at first and third with one out, a stolen base, a walk to load the bases, a single to tie the game, an error from Reddick in picking up the ball to give the Indians the lead, another walk, a sac fly to give the Indians an insurance run, and yes, it was just as bad as it sounded. Maybe worse.

When the dust had settled, the A's lose the opening series to Cleveland, both losses going to Johnson, and are left to regroup for tomorrow night, where a Seattle team comes into town, having just swept the Angels by football scores in all three games. I know it's early. I know that sample sizes early in the year are blown out of proportion. But all that anyone is going to remember from the new guy so far is that he really, genuinely could not get an out in either of his outings, and has cost the A's two early games and their first series. In short, the A's should have a really large lead before the ninth.

I'll be the first to agree that you can't boo your own team player on his first and second outings. He's clearly trying to win over an Oakland crowd, and be one of the cool kids, and there's a lot of pressure being the big money guy and trying to blow everyone away to make an impression. I'm glad the A's are supporting him, and maybe a nice non-pressure inning would go a long way. But that's not how you want to start a season for sure. On the bright side, things can only go up for him from here.

We do it again tomorrow; no time to wallow! The A's take on the Mariners at home tomorrow night at 7:05! See you back here for all the action!

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