It's been said that you can't win 'em all, but with the 2014 Athletics, it sure feels like you can and will; it's a weird (yet awesome) season when losses are unexpected. The A's made a bid for their 7th win in a row, and their third straight against the Giants, but they came up short and flat in tonight's game. Nothing was working; not the starting pitching, not the defense, not the offense, not the venue, and the A's were simply outplayed by the Giants, and by the A's themselves.
Jason Hammel pitched just five innings in his first Athletics' start, allowing six hits and two earned runs (3 total), walking three and striking out three in what would be the losing effort as he left with perhaps a cramped thumb in addition to 99 pitches. Perhaps the A's best chance of scoring multiple runs on the day came in the top of the fifth, but Melvin elected to have Hammel drop down a successful bunt with runners at first and second and one out, rather than pinch-hitting John Jaso off the bench. The A's were struggling for runs all night against Matt Cain; I would have gone for the offense, especially since it was obvious that Hammel was not long for the game.
The A's were down 1-0 early, and 2-0 and 3-1 by the fourth inning, and would cut the game to 3-2 in the sixth, but Hammels' replacement, Eric O'Flaherty, with a combination of bad luck, a seeing-eye ball, and a wild pitch cost the A's two runs that would put the game out of reach.
The A's could only muster five hits in this one; two by Stephen Vogt, including a booming home run that was almost splashy, two by Jed Lowrie, and one by Moss. Josh Donaldson's struggles continued at the plate; he was 0 for the game with one hard hit ball, and a grounder to short in the ninth that it looked like he didn't bother to run out after the Giants' bobbled the play.
The Giants got on the board with some help from Cespedes in the second inning, as his fielding error led to the Giants' 1-0 start. After holding their opposition to an impressive 0-31 with runners in scoring position, the A's would see Buster Posey break that streak with a single in the third inning to score the Giants' second run. Vogt's homer would bring the A's to within a run, but Hunter Pence's homer would extend the Giant's lead. After the A's managed to get runners on first and second in the fifth, thanks to Cain's errant throw on a sure double-play, Hammel's bunt cost them an out, and Coco could not get the hit that would have tied the game. Vogt would lead off the sixth with a walk, and Moss would get himself on base for another opportunity, but Donaldson would pop-up for the second out. Lowrie would single in the A's second run, but Norris couldn't tie the game.
And so it goes.
Gentry pinch-hit for Vogt in the eighth (which caused the Giants to change pitchers); a move I would never have made; Vogt was 2-2 with a walk, and hitting better than anyone on the team right now, but then again, I also would have 100% hit for Hammel in the fifth inning too, but nothing was working for the A's. Nothing except for Jim Johnson, who pitched two scoreless in the losing effort.
There was a moment tonight when we thought that something might be wrong with Hammel, but we're hoping for the best case: a thumb cramp. Which was especially panic-inducing considering this:
Tommy Milone just took a liner straight off his shin, could hear the impact from then press box. Being examined at the moment— Chris Kusiolek (@Oak_AllDay) July 10, 2014
He would stay in the game.
You can't win 'em all, but with the way the Angels are playing behind the A's, they have made up the game they lost last night, and are still 3.5 games behind, despite the A's winning nearly every night. We look for a day game special in San Francisco tomorrow as the Battle of the Bay continues with Scott Kazmir facing off against Tim Hudson. We'll see you back here at 12:45!