Oh, well. The A's have lost five straight games, have been offensively underwhelming since the All-Star Break, aren't getting picked up by their starting pitching, are banged up, you name it. And somehow, they're still leading Major League Baseball in wins. They're still tied for first place in the American League West, and the American League, and still own what's almost inarguably baseball's best starting rotation, along with a lineup as capable as any other of putting up big offensive numbers. So things could be worse.
Tonight's loss saw Jon Lester come back down to earth in his fourth start with Oakland, giving up two home runs that accounted for three of Atlanta's runs, one to Justin Upton in the 4th inning and another to Chris Johnson in the 7th.
Nate Freiman countered with a power surge of his own, though it wasn't enough to bridge the gap entirely. He opened the scoring leading off the top of the 2nd inning, launching Mike Minor's delivery a monstrous 459 feet to dead center field to give Oakland a 1-0 lead.
He did it again in the 7th, again off Minor but this time to left field, trimming Atlanta's lead to 3-2, a lead that Johnson re-upped with his own solo home run in his teams' half of the inning.
The end of the game saw a few questionable managerial decisions that seemed to run counter to Bob Melvin's philosophy of playing the hot hand. Even though Craig Kimbrel is a flame-throwing righty, it's tough to believe that Freiman was less capable of hitting him than John Jaso, who had spent the game's other eight innings as a spectator in the Oakland dugout.
Freiman didn't get the opportunity for a third home run and Jaso was helpless against Kimbrel, whose fastball hit 100mph at one point in the 9th. Brandon Moss and Alberto Callaspo were similarly inept against one of baseball's elite closers, and the A's dropped their third straight game in Atlanta, their fifth overall.
The A's should get some time to regroup in the next week, with just a 21-hour stretch of actual baseball games being played between now and Friday night's first showdown between Oakland and its now co-division leader, the Angels. The A's get days off Monday and Thursday, with the week punctuated only by 7:05pm and 12:35pm games on Tuesday and Wednesday.