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Game #6: Early Bumbles, Late Rumbles As A's Take Series From Seattle

Ezra Shaw

Final Score: A's 6, Mariners 3

Before the game on this Little League Day, one local little league team was allowed to have a player stand next to each of the A's starters for the National Anthem. It was initially hard to tell which team then had its players go sit in the stands and which team stayed on the field.

Early on (yes, Bill King, I said "early on"), base running blunders by Yoenis Cespedes (trying to steal 3B while Erasmo Ramirez was still in the stretch) and Sam Fuld (caught rounding 1B on a call confirmed on replay challenge), fielding blunders by Coco Crisp (casually lobbing the ball back to the infield on a Robinson Cano hit as Cano hustled into 2B with a double) and Daric Barton (fielding a grounder with a runner at 1B but having the ball squirt out of his his glove on the transfer) provided an excellent "What Not To Do" clinic for the young 'uns.

Sonny Gray wobbled early, and as the Barton error led to two unearned runs Gray found himself down 3-0 going to the bottom of the 3rd. From then on it was pretty much all A's, as they suddenly started playing well and never looked back. They got all 3 runs back in the bottom of the 3rd on Brandon Moss' 3-run HR off Ramirez, his first HR of the season.

Eric Sogard started the tie-breaking rally in the 5th with a single, part of a 3 for 3 day. Crisp walked, a wild pitch advanced both runners, Josh Donaldson broke an 0-for-19 with an RBI infield hit to give the A's a 4-3 lead, and then things got really wacky.

Jed Lowrie hit a long fly ball to left-center field that Abraham Almonte chased down after a long run. But as Crisp tagged up to score and Donaldson headed back to 1B, in the quick transfer to throw the ball back in Almonte had the ball squirt out of his glove onto the outfield grass. Donaldson looked at the umpires at 1B and 2B, but it was 3B umpire Fielden Culbreth who signaled "no catch" as Donaldson frantically sought a call from one of the nearer-by umps. A frustrated Donaldson was forced out at 2B on Lowrie's "RBI fielder's choice". Or perhaps Fielden's Choice. In any event it was 5-3 A's.

You knew the day was going better and better when a shot down the 1B line caromed off of the corner of the 1B bag right to Sonny Gray as he started over to cover 1B. You knew it even more when Yoenis Cespedes blasted a HR to right-center field in the 8th to give Oakland a 6-3 cushion. And you finally exhaled when Jim Johnson recorded his first save despite a leadoff walk on a borderline 3-2 pitch and a ground ball single to RF that brought the tying run to the plate with one out. Johnson struck out Mike Zunino and Almonte, each looking, to end the game.

Gray has looked a bit shaky in each of his two starts, though he has survived both outings admirably. Maybe I'm inferring too much, but he has looked to me like someone who was just a bit tight after getting the Opening Day assignment after just 12 career starts. Following Moss' HR, suddenly he seemed to air it out a bit more, hitting 93 MPH on his fastball (he had been sitting mostly at 90-91 MPH).

Another observation about Gray is more of a strict baseball one: He needs to use the inside part of the plate more against LH hitters. Still, if Gray is the A's biggest problem they're in good shape and indeed for all the weirdness of the week's first home stand Oakland leaves town 3-3 with only one "dry rainout".