First of all, it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a truly great man of baseball. Tony Gwynn lost his battle with cancer today, and we wish his family and friends comfort during this difficult time.
Frankly, I'm not sure how to construct this game recap. I could talk about the fact that the A's had nearly as many hits as the Rangers (15 to their 16), but the Rangers made them count, hitting four home runs to the A's two. Oh, and the A's defense probably didn't help a ton. The real story, of course, is the pitching, but even so, it's hard to complain about an Athletics' starter finally having a bad game, because it hasn't happened really at all this season. And even then, the A's might have been able to survive Pomeranz' outing, but it would have taken a perfect night from the bullpen. Judging from the 14 runs that the Rangers ended with, it was far from that as well, as the bullpen was nearly as hittable as the starter.
On one hand, all the hits were fun to see; this team certainly has no trouble scoring runs, even with the slumping bats in the middle of the lineup. I think it's because all three catchers played tonight. Jaso, Donaldson and Lowrie all had a hit tonight, and Moss had two; small victories in an extremely tough stretch for them. The majority of the Oakland offense came from Yoenis Cespedes, who racked up 4 RBI while hitting a home run to get the A's within shouting distance at one point in the game. Coco Crisp went 3 for 5 in the game, but it was really Alberto Callaspo who shined in the ninth spot in the order, just back from becoming a dad again, who racked up a 4 for 5 night.
The A's this year will easily win the vast majority of games in which they score 8 runs, but tonight was the one where they just couldn't score enough to overcome a collective bad night on the mound. Only Dan Otero escaped without a run charged to his outing, and that's only because he gave up another run for Francis, and the only reason that Ryan Cook's line even looks respectable is that he gave up two of Pomeranz' runs before he got started on his own. So all in all, not a terrific night, but at least everyone sucked at once, and we did get lots of at-bats for the lineup in a desperate attempt to break out.
The A's started the game quite well, actually. Pomeranz gave up a hit in the first, but it was erased on a double-play. Coco led off the A's half of the inning with a double, and scored on a Jaso single. Jaso would later score on a Cespedes sac fly and the A's held the 2-0 lead. For like a minute.
Texas stormed back with two lead-off hits in the second; one was technically called an error, but that call was terrible; it was a hard hit ball to Lowrie that really should have been called a hit, and consequently, it's the only reason that Pomeranz had seven earned runs instead of eight. A sacrifice bunt by Donnie Murphy (who would also hit two home runs in the game) moved the runners to second and third, and they would score on a single. I don't have a bigger pet peeve in baseball than when Ron Washington's "small ball" idiocy seems to pay off, why are you bunting in the second inning with Donnie Murphy and giving us a free out when you could have shelled our pitcher much earlier? All I wanted was Texas to run themselves out of a big inning with that move; instead, they scored both runners with the next hit and blew up Pomeranz later. Sigh.
Only one team took advantage of the fresh game; Texas dropped a 6-spot on Pomeranz and Cook in the fourth inning, and with the score 8-2, I don't really blame the A's for pitching any arm out of the bullpen down six runs halfway through the game, and Cook clearly needs the appearances. It's hard to let go of the "what if the bullpen saved the game" story line, but when a starter gives up eight, you just don't win the game, no matter what. Cook would give up two more runs in the fifth, as Michael Choice homered, and down 10-2, it was hard to imagine that the A's would ever bring the tying run to the plate twice, but it's the 2014 Oakland Athletics, and that's just how they roll. They, in fact, would.
Brandon Moss laced a home run to bring the A's to 10-3, but just as quickly, Jeff Francis gave it back up. With the score 11-3, we can finally stop watching, right? With one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, back-to-back doubles by Callaspo and Crisp plated one run, and after a nice Kyle Blanks walk (who pinch-hit for Jaso), Cespedes positively unloaded for a three-run home run, bringing the A's to a nice 11-7 deficit. They would inch ever closer in the seventh as a one-out walk by Norris and a Vogt single put two on for Callaspo. He would single in the A's 8th run, and bring the tying run to the plate. Coco would pop up on the first pitch for the second out of the inning, and Blanks would take a borderline pitch for strike three to end the threat.
An error on Callaspo at second with a runner on third, one out, and the infield in gave Texas its 4-run lead back, and the wind seemed to be taken out of the A's sails at that point. It was hard to care about Abad's back-to-back home runs allowed to stretch the score to 14-8, and despite putting to more runners on in the ninth for Blanks, the A's went down meekly.
If only some key at-bats had gone the A's way; if only Donaldson wasn't in a slump to end all slumps even as he will win a spot in the All Star game; if only the pitching hadn't gone so far awry. This one wasn't the A's game. The Angels lost to keep the A's lead at 4.5, and the A's can still win the series with a victory tomorrow and Wednesday before welcoming the Red Sox into town on Thursday.
Chalk this one up to just not enough of this and that, and we'll try again tomorrow.