All's well that ends well. The A's fanbase was on pins and needles for nearly the entire game, as the A's clung to a 1-0 lead on Chris Young's leadoff home run crushed to the second deck. The series-long struggles with runners in scoring position for both teams continued. Following the third inning, both starters settled down. Straily started mowing through the Blue Jays' lineup, and props are due to J.A. Happ for his stellar comeback after the scary line drive to the face.
The score remained 1-0 until the 8th inning, when Alberto Callaspo olé-d a probable double play ball and the Blue Jays tied it up. It seemed the familiar recent pattern of failures with men on base plus defensive ineptitude was going to do in Straily and the Green & Gold. However, thanks to a bit of luck, i.e., a lined shot double play to Eric Sogard off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, the A's managed to escape with a 1-1 tie going into the ninth inning.
The A's proceeded to find that mojo they had been missing since the All-Star break. Josh Donaldson led off with a solid base hit. Yoenis Cespedes managed yet another unproductive out, fouling out on the second pitch he saw. Bob Melvin then followed his mad scientist platoon strategy and it paid off. Brandon Moss, hitting for Nate Freiman (who himself had a base hit earlier) blooped a double just inside the right field line. With the tie game and first base open, Jays closer Casey Janssen walked Josh Reddick to load the bases and preserve the force out/double play possibilities.
And then Callaspo totally redeemed himself. Just as Ray Fosse was chiding him for not taking the first pitch breaking ball for the team to score the run, he lined a two run double batting left handed, smashing the A's out of their offensive doldrums. Stephen Vogt continued his solid play, lining a single and driving in another run. Eric Sogard capped off the scoring with a sacrifice fly, and Sean Doolittle picked up the save.
This was far from the cleanest series on either side. The A's left 31 runners on base in the four games. Still, they were a very respectable 12/45 with runners in scoring position (.267 average). From a batting standpoint, it seems that the frustration comes from a good place, i.e. getting so many runners on base. When the A's actually convert on those opportunities, as they did in game 1 (6-11 with RISP), they put up some football numbers.
The infield also committed 8 errors (counting two passed balls), plus they messed up a few other balls that weren't ruled as errors but should have been fielded. Without these miscues we may have been looking at a sweep running away. C'est la vie.
On the flip side, look at a team that is really struggling with runners in scoring position. The four games for the Blue Jays saw a whopping 33 runners left on base, and a paltry .161 average with RISP (5/31). That is with their torrid lineup. Shows you how fluky RISP numbers can be. Thus, while the frustration naturally mounts with every failure, small-sample RISP numbers are extremely volatile and ultimately meaningless.
Dan Straily was very much a bright spot. He kept his pitch count low and worked a career-high 7 1/3 innings (after failing to get through 5 innings in 3 straight starts). That was encouraging to see. His and Griffin's recent performances are starting to validate the decision to keep them in the rotation over Tommy Milone.
The Astros rolled over against Yu Darvish, and the Rangers maintain their one game lead in the AL West. At least we can take solace in the fact that the A's are keeping pace and get the Astros for three games at home this week. All we need is to weather August and keep it close. 45 games left, and each one is going to be intense.
Also, we may be saying good-bye to Adam Rosales for good. With the acquisition of Alex Rios, the Rangers were able to send down an outfielder and claim Rosales again. What a strange couple of weeks for him. Odds are that they will be able to keep him around until September, but hopefully he continues producing at his abysmal season line.
updated 2:30 PM to add result of Rangers-Astros game and notes on Rosales.