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Game #158: A's execute perfectly designed game to rip out last shreds of fans' hearts, yet aren't done yet

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The A's drop the final game of the series to the Angels 5-4. In so many ways, it might have been easier had they just lost 5-0. Yet, thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays, the A's magic number is 2 with 4 to play. In plain baseball-speak, if the A's win two games out of the four in Texas this weekend, they will make the playoffs. Which is inconceivable...and yet...

Ezra Shaw

Well, it's fitting, I suppose. In what is likely going to be my last game thread and recap of the regular season, the A's made sure I have one last gem in which to remember the 2014 season. I attended the Home Run Derby and the All Star Game this year, and both were as special a moment as I have ever had as an A's fan. I found myself thinking, Could this finally be the year? Casual baseball fans and non-sports friends were suddenly talking about my team, we were winning every night, we were unstoppable. I don't blame the trades. I certainly don't blame Lester for anything; it's pretty indisputable that he's a big part of the reason the A's are even knocking at the door of the postseason, and if there was ever a game to be less than sharp, I'm glad it's today instead of the Wild Card one-and-done.

I can fairly blame the defense in today's loss and I can certainly blame the platoons, so I guess I do blame Bob Melvin for subscribing to a "two lineup" theory when it is crystal clear to everyone that one of those lineups could probably be beat by any single-A team out there. And I don't buy that the failure is all on the part of the team. What did one really expect with Jonny Gomes, circa 2014, batting clean-up in today's game? You didn't really expect an extra base hit, did you? And with the day game after the night game, Norris had to be used today. But c'mon. As long as we're going down with the ship, go down with your best lineup every night, left-handers be damned. You've built your season on Brandon Moss, and his non-use this week was borderline criminal. Or, you know, setting up the A's to fail before they ever took the field. Play your best players, Melvin. The time to be cute is over.  We have four games, and the A's four best lineups should be penned in the lineup for Texas. You didn't really put Jonny Gomes in the fourth spot again today, did you?

After a possible missed-call that cost the A's an out at the plate in yet another day where everything that could have gone wrong did, including their best pitcher "giving up" five runs (I can dispute this stat; Lester should be furious at how his line turned out; even those three earned runs weren't all on him), it would have been easy for the A's to roll over and lose 5-0. But they didn't. They put together four runs in dare-I-say-it, a somewhat gritty seventh inning, and they showed some life and spark from the dugout down one run in the ninth. I had so hoped that Huston Street would be a disaster for the Angels, and I'm not taking his success very well, but you have to hand it to him; he has been a huge part of their success down the stretch.

Like so many games in the back end of this season, this one got off to a bad start early. After Calhoun struck out to open the game, Trout singled, and with two outs, stole second base on Derek Norris. Sigh. The subsequent single plated Trout, and the Angels scored their first run early. The second and third runs belong to Josh Donaldson, as with two outs and a runner on first in the third, Donaldson failed to backhand a ball hit by Pujols, scored a generous double, and put runners on second and third with two outs. An interesting note: Jed Lowrie (who had a good game) hit into a double-play to close out the second inning for the A's, but not before he hit a ball that just fell foul. Kendrick hit his ball and it just fell fair, proving that the entire baseball universe is indeed, conspiring against the green and gold. Down 3-0 in the third, Josh Reddick continued his hot hitting and opened with a single, but never moved from first. Trout dropped a fly ball in the A's half of the fourth that put Donaldson on third with no one out, but Gomes popped up, of course, and Norris did too, and the A's, for lack of any other good options, sent Donaldson to the plate. Take a look for yourself, but he looked safe. At the very least, if he was called safe in the first place, it wouldn't have been overturned, but because the umpires hate the A's too, the call was out and it was upheld, costing the A's their first run and obviously the difference in the game.

Josh Reddick dropped a ball in the outfield to allow runs at second and third in the top of the fifth, and the Angels tacked on another. Donaldson was charged with an actual error in the seventh, as the Angels scored their 5th run. I heard a lot of "clicks" from TV's and radios at that point, and I would have joined you except recap.

But despite average pitching, horrific defense, crappy hitters, awful managing, and just plain bad luck, the A's weren't quite done. Norris singled to open the seventh inning and after the pinch-hitting Vogt lined out (what do you expect?! He never starts games to get warmed up!), Lowrie singled to put runners on first and third. A big Reddick double scored both runs, and a Punto triple brought in Reddick to close the gap to 5-3. Crisp, looking alive for the first time in a long while, singled in Reddick, and the A's were down by just one. Fuld recorded the second out, and after a Donaldson walk (he has power, you see), pinch-hitter Dunn struck out to end the inning.

Lester completed seven innings and was relieved by Gregerson and Doolittle, who allowed nothing further, even though one of Doolittle's offerings looked like another home run. Meanwhile, Lowrie singled with two outs in the eighth and was replaced by Billy Burns, who stole second base in a way that survived a replay call. Reddick grounded out to end the inning, and leave the tying run on second. Punto, Crisp and Fuld went meekly off into the good Oakland afternoon, and once again, the A's were a day late and a dollar short. For a third of the game or so, it looked like the A's really came to play. Too bad about the first six innings.

Thanks to Toronto, who needed just a single run to defeat the Mariners, the only team in baseball who is more frustrated than we, our magic number drops even with the loss. The A's need to win two of the four games in Texas to clinch a postseason berth, and they need Kansas City to something worse in order to reclaim the top spot. It's like a turtle racing a snail over here. Riveting baseball.

Here's to hoping that the A's replay the seventh inning over and over again in their final four games. I bet you didn't know what "in it for the long haul" meant until this year, did you?

baseballgirl out. It's been...um....a rollercoaster. I love you all, and you're simply terrific for reading this.