Before I recap this game, I want everyone to take a deep breath. This was a close game in which neither team really played well enough to win, and the home team ended up with the victory. These things happen. It's still April; let's not dwell on this one too much.
I will spare you most of the play-by-play, but here are the important parts. Jon Lester was not on his game today; in his 5.2 innings, he allowed six hits and six walks and threw a heck of a temper tantrum in the dugout. However, Oakland let him off the hook in every inning except the 4th. In that frame, Jed Lowrie and Brandon Moss each singled, and Chris Young hit a no-doubter over the Green Monster in left for a 3-run homer. That was all they got off of Lester. Six walks, and none of them scored.
Brett Anderson ran into trouble in the 4th inning as well. David Ortiz led off with a double off the very top of the Monster, but he was nearly thrown out by Seth Smith. Jed Lowrie was positioned a couple of steps away from the bag, so although Smith's throw beat Ortiz easily, Lowrie was unable to get over to tag him in time. (Actually, it looked like Ortiz was out on the replay, but Bud Selig says that we can't use those because the machines might rise up against us if we give them too much power.) I put that one on Lowrie; if he's in the right spot to receive the throw, then that's an out. Mike Napoli followed Ortiz's double with one of his own to score Big Papi, and Jonny Gomes walked to put a pair of runners on base.
It should be noted that at this point, Anderson more or less made a routine play to record an out. Will Middlebrooks grounded back to the mound, and Anderson turned around to get the force at 2nd. However, Gomes had gotten a ridiculous lead off of 1st base, and he actually beat Anderson's throw to 2nd...except that he was more concerned with trying to break up a potential double play than trying to be safe. Had Gomes just slid into the bag, he probably would have made it. Instead, he did his best Jemile Weeks impression and blew about 5 feet past the base, taking Andy Parrino's relatively tiny little body along for the ride. Stephen Drew followed by lining a triple into the right-field corner, and the game was tied. Shutdown innings are for suckers!
The 5th inning turned out to be the deciding frame today, but it wasn't as awful as it looked in the box score. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with an infield single which no one in the Majors could have turned into a putout, and then stole 2nd with such a ridiculous jump that Pudge Rodriguez couldn't have thrown him out. Shane Victorino tried to bunt him over to 3rd, but couldn't get it down; instead, he swung away and slapped a grounder down the left field line, just off the glove of Josh Donaldson at 3rd. Victorino wanted to sacrifice, but instead ended with a ground ball RBI double, because baseball is an asshole. Dustin Pedroia followed with a smash that deflected off of Donaldson for another infield single.
With two runners on and nobody out, Ortiz stepped to the plate. Oakland put on the infield shift, hoping that Ortiz would pull something on the ground. Instead, he hit a dinky routine grounder to where the shortstop would normally be playing, and it BABIP'd its way past a diving Donaldson for an RBI single. If you get Ortiz to hit the ball like he did there, then you have succeeded. It just didn't work out this time.
At this point, Bob Melvin had seen enough. Anderson did not pitch well, but he also did not pitch as poorly as his line suggests. He struck out five batters in four innings of work, and didn't particularly hurt himself with walks (he only allowed two, of which one led to a run). He gave up some hard hit balls in the 4th, but otherwise he wasn't that bad. I'm not going to sit here and say that he's having a great year or that he looks like an ace right now, but I'm not ready to say that he's a complete disaster either. Let's have some patience and see if he can work out of this funk.
Chris Resop relieved Anderson, and he hit Mike Napoli with his very first pitch. Daniel Nava came in to hit for Gomes, and poked a slow grounder through the right side for another RBI single. If you're counting, that is two infield singles, two dinky slow grounders through holes, and one sharp grounder for a double. Nothing was hit in the air or on a line. Sometimes, the bounces just don't go your way.
Resop retired the next batter, and Jerry Blevins came in to get out of the jam. If the A's had won today, then Blevins might have been the MVP of the game. He retired six straight batters before giving away to Pat Neshek in the 7th, and in doing so gave the A's a chance to get back in the game. He was clutch today. Neshek and Grant Balfour would team up to record the final five outs, and it would be up to Oakland's hitters to win this one.
In the 6th, Oakland loaded the bases against Lester, but Junichi Tazawa retired Coco Crisp to end the threat. In the 7th, Jed Lowrie doubled ahead of a Josh Donaldson single to bring the score to 6-4, but Andrew Miller came in to strike out Brandon Moss and squash the rally. In the 8th, Chris Young hit his second no-doubter of the day to bring the score to 6-5, but Koji Uehara retired the next three batters to stop the damage. In the 9th, Andrew Bailey (and his new mutton chops) struck out the side, all swinging, to close out the game.
Lowrie nearly hit a double off of Bailey, but missed it by inches. It actually would have been decidedly foul, but a fan reached out and deflected it with her stupid hand and nearly knocked it fair. It still landed foul by about an inch, and if you are familiar with Fenway Park, then you know how difficult it is to hit a foul ball in the right field corner. There is less than a foot of space between the wall and the foul line, and Lowrie found it. That's the kind of day it was for the A's. You could argue that it should have been fan interference (and therefore a ground-rule double), but it would be a weak argument. It was going to go foul, the fan touched it, and it went foul anyway.
By now, we should all be used to the A's struggling in April. It happens every year. The good news is, this time they were spotted a 9-2 record to start out; instead of digging a giant hole for the first month of the season, they are 13-9 and are within a game of 1st place (pending the Rangers game tonight). Things could be much, much worse.
Several A's did have big games today. Blevins was awesome, Young homered twice and stole a base, Donaldson had a couple of hits and threw his body around on defense, and Lowrie had three hits. However, the first three batters in the lineup (Coco, Norris, and Smith) combined to go 0-for-11 (with three walks), and Anderson was unable to get the big outs when he needed them. Also, it is pretty clear to me that Andy Parrino doesn't belong in the Major Leagues. I still haven't forgiven him for his horrible defensive blunder in the first game of the series, and he is completely useless at the plate. Hurry back, Adam Rosales. Oakland could use a real utility man. In the meantime, I'd like to see Eric Sogard start every day from here on out (or until Jemile Weeks, Grant Green, or Hiro Nakajima prove that they should take his place).
I'm not going to try to sugarcoat a 1-5 road trip. That was bad, and the A's are going to need to play a whole lot better than this if they want to make the playoffs again. It's all over now, though, and they can leave all of that bad juju behind them on the East Coast as they travel home to open a seven-game homestand tomorrow. It's still April, and the A's have a winning record. Things could be a lot worse.
Just take a deep breath, and we'll go get 'em tomorrow.
Oakland opens a four-game series against Baltimore tomorrow at 7:05pm. Jason Hammel faces Jarrod Parker, and cuppingmaster will have the Game Thread for you. Also, I will be doing a podcast preview of the series on the Baltimore Sports Report, so look out for that sometime tomorrow.