If there is a silver lining to the A's losing their first game in the last ten, it's that this team doesn't ever give up. Ever. Even down 7-1 early after the starting pitching just wasn't there, they battled back every inning, every batter, and did the only thing you can ask for in a blowout - bring the tying run to the plate. The comeback was ultimately unsuccessful, but this afternoon, the Coco and Cespedes-less offense did so much more than I ever expected they would. Even with everything stacked against the A's, including the horrific home plate umpire, Andy Fletcher, who couldn't find the strike zone with a good map, they managed to be in the game until the very last pitch.
Let's be realistic. The A's are 9-3 to start their 2013 campaign; they have a chance for the series win tomorrow, and they are leading the Majors in just about all offensive categories. There isn't a lot to complain about. But what is mildly frustrating about today is that FOR ONCE, they played Justin Verlander exactly right. The A's offense valiantly battled Verlander, scratching and clawing to get a run. They strung together three singles in the third inning, and, even though they wouldn't get to him again, they forced him to throw so many pitches (111 to be exact) that he could only complete six innings. That's how to beat the Tigers with Verlander pitching. And had Brett Anderson pitched anywhere in the neighborhood of a quality start - not even a shutout - they likely would have won the game.
Unfortunately, Anderson, perhaps suffering from a balky knee, allowed as many home runs to the Tigers as Verlander allowed hits to the A's. I'll accept the poor location of the 0-2 pitch to Torii Hunter and the crushed ball from Prince Fielder. However, the distracted, all-over-the-place, falling-off-the-mound-every-pitch hot mess to Jhonny Peralta, resulting in a three-run home run, was unacceptable for an ace. That at-bat alone cost the A's the game. Anderson would finish with 8 hits, 3 walks, and 7 earned runs, and he earned every one.
The A's defense tried their best to bail Anderson out, but you can't defend the walk or the long ball. Andy Parrino played a pretty amazing shortstop; he had us from the second batter of the game. The ball was hit up the middle. Parrino left his feet and, in a full out dive, snagged the ball out of the air, got up and threw to first. That play followed a great grab by Donaldson at third; both plays kept Tigers' runners off the bases to start the game, which saved Brett Anderson an earlier exit. Cabrera would follow with a walk and Fielder would slice an 0-2 pitch for a single, and both would be stranded.
The A's would push across a run against Verlander in the second on the strength of three singles (Smith, Donaldson, and the RBI by Norris). It took Brett Anderson one pitch to give it all back in the third as he clearly missed his location, resulting in one of the worst 0-2 pitches I've ever seen. Torii Hunter didn't miss it. Tied 1-1 in the fourth, Anderson would allow the Fielder homerun, a single, a walk, and the homerun to Peralta. Neshek would replace Anderson in the sixth after he plated one more, and Neshek would kindly give up the seventh run, just for good measure. No Tigers runners would score again off Neshek or his replacement Scribner.
Meanwhile, the A's offense put runners all over the bases, and the homeplate umpire kept ending the rallies with frankly ridiculous called strikes - none more egregious than the strikeout to Moss in the eighth inning. After the A's had rallied for two runs off a Chris Young double in the seventh to close the gap to 7-3, Moss took a pitch practically in the dirt for strike three. He, quite rightly, flipped out, and Bob Melvin was thrown out of the game long before he ever emerged to argue. For a team that is heavily dependent on only swinging at strikes, an inconsistent strike zone will destroy the rally. But the A's still battled through it, loading the bases to bring up the tying run - a pinch-hitting Jed Lowrie, who had the day off. He took a tough, knee-buckling pitch for strike three and the last rally of the day ended.
It's one loss. The A's need to shake it off and pick up where they left off tomorrow to win the series. Same time, same place; Jarrod Parker vs. Anibal Sanchez.