The Swingin' A's they ain't. The A's bats are mired in a funk, no doubt about it. This was a winnable game. The Reds' offense wasn't exactly on fire. Cincinnati starter Mat Latos was not terribly sharp. However, it's hard to win games when you only score 1 run. I suppose that it's easier than if you put up zero runs, as the A's did in Oakland on Sunday against the rival Texas Rangers. Meager progress!
And so this week from hell continues. The A's have lost 4.5 games of their six game lead in the AL West in the last seven days, and could see their lead dwindle to 1 game by the end of the night (pending the outcome of TEX-LAA). Of course, you'd rather be in first place than second place, so, it's not all bad. If the A's were in second place when they started this streak, they would be fighting for the second wild card. It could be worse. But things are looking bleak.
Doom and gloom envelops Athletics Nation...and so it goes when the team freefalls from massive highs to crushing lows. Nonetheless, the game started off with some good news. Eric Sogard hit a one out double in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. Things looked good, runner in scoring position, less than two outs. However, a foul pop out by Jed Lowrie quickly sobered up A's Nation. Yoenis Cespedes drew a tough walk from Latos to keep the inning alive for Brandon Moss, who promptly grounded out to end the "threat."
Jay Bruce led off the bottom of the second inning with a solo shot off Oakland starter Dan Straily. Straily had narrowly escaped the bottom of the first by inducing a double play with runners on the corners (helped by a bunt pop out by Reds left fielder Derrick Robinson, who had a terrible day). At that point, the Reds had three hits, and Straily was ahead in the count in every at bat. He seemed to have an issue getting batters to chase, giving them pitches that caught too much of the plate when he had the advantage.
In the third inning, the A's again had a runner in scoring position, less than two outs, Courtesy of a Coco Crisp triple that barely caught the corner of the bag on the first base line. Perfectly placed, and it looked like the A's could tie it pretty easily. However, Eric Sogard hit a chopper to third base and Coco had to hold. If the A's had the contact play on, perhaps that ball would have been slow enough to score Crisp, but it was a moot point. Two outs, familiar story, infield pop up by Jed Lowrie to end the inning.
Meanwhile the Reds continued tagging Straily, and Straily continued his Houdini moves to get out of the jams, only allowing one run on a walk and two hits. Shin Soo-Choo's league-leading on base percentage actually got better as he reached base in the first and the third.
In the fourth, Donaldson got on base with a two out walk, but was left hanging as Jay Bruce made a spectacular running catch to rob Josh Reddick of extra bases and an RBI. Reddick is probably at his wit's end; what does that guy have to do to get a hit?
The A's again "threatened" in the 5th inning. Stephen Vogt reached on a single that probably could have been fielded by first baseman Joey Votto, except that he thought second baseman Brandon Phillips would get to it. He didn't, and the A's were gifted a baserunner.
Bob Melvin had seen enough of the lackluster offense and Straily's balancing act; in a desperation attempt to generate runs, he pulled Straily after four innings for a pinch hitter. The move didn't work as Seth Smith made an unproductive out. However, the A's like to tease us all, and Brandon Phillips booted Crisp's grounder on the next at bat. 2nd and 3rd, one out. Two gifted baserunners in scoring position. Nevertheless, another infield pop up, this time by Sogard, put the A's backs against the wall. I imagine the entire team is pressing at this point. However Jed Lowrie managed to draw a walk to load the bases, and it looked like the A's might finally break through with the imposing Cespedes stepping to the plate. Cespedes hit a rocket grounder right to former Athletic 3B Jack Hannahan, who calmly stepped to the bag. Inning over.
The Reds struck again in the bottom of the 5th, thanks to a Jerry Blevins throwing error that scored Choo from second base on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Derrick Robinson (who unfortunately, did not graciously pop it up again). Choo at that point was 2-2 with a walk and a double. Simply an amazing performance by the leadoff hitter.
Other than the throwing error, however, the A's bullpen was lights out. Blevins gave way to Neshek, who got two tidy outs against right handers. Otero was stellar in the seventh and eighth innings, with some nice downward movement and hitting his spots.
The offense remained lifeless until Derek Norris pinch hit with two outs in the ninth inning against Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. He took the sixth pitch he faced (a 99 mph fastball down broadway) and sailed it past the centerfield wall. The home run had a slight healing effect after all those scoreless innings. Good to know that Norris is still on his torrid stretch of hitting. It may be time to get his bat in the lineup every day, one way or the other.
The A's are continuing to pitch fairly well, but those bats...
Donaldson has no RBI since the All-Star Break. The A's as a team have gone 0 for their last 19 with runners in scoring position. Gah! Even the bandbox in Cincinnati didn't help tonight. Is there something that Melvin or Beane can do to jumpstart the offense? After the game Melvin said, "I don't know if it calls for a team meeting, but we could see different guys in there tomorrow." All suggestions welcome below, because what the hell.