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Game #126: A's Rally Falls Short, Lose 8-5

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The A's offense may have scratched together five runs in today's game, marking the second straight game to score at least five--and it's something--but their starting pitcher let them down today as Samardzija was pulled in the fourth inning, finishing his outing with seven earned runs.

Ezra Shaw

Look. The game was obviously lost today by Jeff Samardzija's inability to complete four innings, and the seven runs he earned along the way. That's the easy recap, and it's true. You won't win a lot of games where your starting pitcher gives up a 5-spot in a single inning and can't shut it down even after that. Despite the bullpen combination of Chavez, Abad and Otero throwing more than five innings, allowing just one additional run, the A's lost because their starting pitching sucked.

That's obviously not the whole story. The A's had multiple chances to come back in this one; they drew six walks to match their six hits, they had chances in almost inning to get back in the game--and they indeed had the tying and go-ahead runs at the plate in the eighth inning--but they couldn't find a batter to deliver the big hit. And not to point fingers in this one, because, again, you aren't coming back very often from a start like this, but the big moments all seemed to come up during Andy Parrino's spot in the lineup. Yes, the A's only had six hits. No, they were probably not helped by the strike zone, but when you put yourself in a 5-0 hole, absolutely everything has to go your way to even think of crawling out. Parrino swung at ball four twice, and struck out twice in his four at-bats, which all seemed to be very key moments in the game. Even with no one left to play middle infield, I still think I would have pinch-hit either Gomes or Freiman with the bases loaded in the eighth and the A's trailing by 3 just for the simple reason that I wanted a major league player at bat in the one moment could change the game in a pennant race.

And that's the absolute, sheer frustration talking. The truth is, Zack Wheeler is a very good pitcher; a playoff-caliber pitcher, if you will, and if you told me that the A's managed to tag him with four hits and two earned runs (four total) even with the lineup they threw out there today, I'd probably think that was okay. Even a mediocre start by Samardzija likely wins this game, but when everything is going wrong for a team, everything goes wrong, doesn't it? So the A's score five, and they still lose. So all I have left is to tell you how they could have scored more, or given up fewer.

Both Samardzija and Wheeler pitched two perfect innings to start this game. Samardzija blinked first, allowing a home run to lead off the third. If only...if only...if only. After two quick outs, it looked like the damage would be minimal, until Curtis Granderson did what Brandon Moss should do; shoot a ball up the shifted third base line for a hit. A two-out hit, no big deal, right? DON'T FREAK OUT. A single put two men on base. A walk loaded the bases. Bound and determined to give up more runs, Samardzija bounced a pitch, but it didn't score the run, so he bounced another; this one having the desired effect. Down 2-0, with runners at second and third, and two outs, and done with the wild pitch portion of the ballgame, Samardzija grooved a pitch to give the Mets the 5-0 lead.

To their credit, the A's came back. Parrino refused to walk (and he would have scored), so Sogard walked instead, and was driven in by a hot Coco for the A's first run. Jaso doubled Coco in and the A's cut the game to 5-2. I don't need to tell you that the score should stay there, if you want your offense to keep coming back. A walk, three singles, and two runs later in the fourth, digging the A's right back where they started, Samardzija's day was done.

The A's would get the two runs back on a Mets' error in the fourth, bringing the score to 7-4. Unfortunately, the dreaded "shut down" inning didn't really work out for anyone today, and Chavez gave up his only run in the fifth, extending the Mets' lead to 8-4.

The A's golden opportunity of the game came in the eighth inning. Trailing 8-4, Moss drew a one-out walk and Reddick reached on an error. After Callaspo walked to load the bases, Sam Fuld walked to drive in a run, edging the A's closer at 8-5. When I saw Parrino heading for the plate, I was hoping he wouldn't hit into a double-play. Not a hit. Not a sac fly. I just wanted a chance for the pinch-hitting Josh Donaldson (who replaced Sogard in the seventh). Parrino struck out. See earlier in the recap for my thoughts on that at-bat. So up came Donaldson as the go-ahead run. He grounded out, despite his best effort to get to first base, and the game was all but over at that point.

So the A's drop another awful game, and fall just that much further behind.

But...

Meanwhile, in the pennant race, a caveat must be said that we never root for injuries. It's a terrible thing for the sport and for the race to lose great pitchers, on any team, and it appears that we have a season changer in the race with the Angels as it looks like Garret Richards has blown out his knee and has been carted off the field in Boston. On a personal note, we wish him the best, and everyone hopes the injury isn't as bad as it looked. We'll have more details soon.

And we're rooting for the Red Sox. It's come to this. The Angels have two games before the showdown against the A's; the next time the A's take the field, it will be against the Angels, battling for first place, and both teams' playoff lives. I can only hope the A's are ready and were throwing Spring Training today.

Think good thoughts everyone! Do something to change up the mojo.I will see you back here on Friday night as your host for the season showdown. Pack the Coliseum and bring home that victory. LET'S GO OAK-LAND!