Needless to say...that didn't go well.
The A's entered the day looking to win consecutive games for the first time in this young season, and guarantee a series victory over the division rival Seattle Mariners. However, after leaving the bases loaded in the second against Mariners' starter J.A. Happ, Sonny Gray made his only bad pitch of the afternoon, hanging a curveball to Dustin Ackley that promptly left the yard. From that point on, it was all pitching - Happ and Gray traded zeros from the bottom of the third through the top of the seventh.
Billy Butler and Cody Ross led off the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back singles, bringing the team hit total for the day thus far to a whopping five hits. Eric Sogard was brought in to pinch-run for Butler, and after a perfect sacrifice bunt from Brett Lawrie, Josh Phegley smacked a single the other way to tie the game at one. Semien followed with a single of his own to give the A's the lead and push Phegley to third. That marked the end of J.A. Happ's day.
This is where things started to go wrong for the A's. Tyler Ladendorf laid down a pretty mediocre squeeze bunt, flipped to the plate by reliever Danny Farquhar, but it looked like Phegley might have beat the tag by catcher Jesus Sucre. It also looked like Sucre might have illegally blocked home plate on the play. Bob Melvin used his challenge, but to no avail. The call stood, and the A's missed out on what could have been a crucial insurance run.
In the top of the eighth, things got worse. After giving up a one out single, Sonny Gray's day was over. All told, Sonny gave up two runs (one earned) over 7 1/3 innings of six-hit ball, collecting four strikeouts along the way. In came lefty Eric O'Flaherty, who quickly induced a weak comebacker from Justin Ruggiano. However, his throw to second was off, and it was questionable whether Marcus Semien touched the base before throwing low and late to first. The ruling on the field was out at second, but after sending it back to New York via replay once more, the call was overturned. Replay went against the Athletics yet again, and after inducing a groundout from Robinson Cano, Eric O'Flaherty's outing was over.
In came Dan Otero to face slugger Nelson Cruz. Otero was efficient, as it only took him three pitches to give up a monumental three-run homer to Cruz. He next induced a groundout from Kyle Seager, but the damage had been done, and the A's were behind 4-2.
The A's offense still had some fight in it, however. Rookie Mark Canha led off the bottom half of the eighth with a single, and was quickly knocked in by a Ben Zobrist double. Eric Sogard bunted him over to third, and it was up to Ike Davis to tie the game with a runner on third and one out. He struck out. Next came the struggling Brett Lawrie, who surprised us all by clubbing a breaking ball into left field for an RBI double. He was stranded at second, but the game was tied up at four runs apiece.
The top of the ninth was nerve-wracking, as Tyler Clippard did his best Grant Balfour/Jim Johnson impression, but he escaped unscathed. Both teams were quiet again offensively until the bottom of the 10th, when Ben Zobrist hit a leadoff single. Eric Sogard had one job - to bunt him over to second base and give Ike Davis or Brett Lawrie a shot to knock him in. Instead, Sogard struck out, setting the stage for more sadness.
Ike Davis crushed a double off of the high part of the wall in left-center. Centerfielder Austin Jackson played it perfectly, and Mike Gallego took a risk and sent Zobrist home. The Mariners pulled off a perfect relay, including a fantastic pick and tag by newly substituted catcher Mike Zunino, and Zobrist was out by three feet.
Brett Lawrie was walked intentionally and took second base, setting the stage for Stephen Vogt to...pull a hard grounder juuuuuust foul. Vogt walked, and up came Marcus Semien. Semien proceeded to ground out on the first pitch he saw, ending the A's threat.
It felt like the time the game would completely unravel, and it was. In the top of the eleventh, the Mariners did what the A's couldn't - a single, followed up by a well executed sacrifice bunt. All it took was a Brad Miller opposite field double to seal the deal for the A's. Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect ninth, and shot his arrow into the blue Oakland sky.
This seems like as good of a time as any to remind us all that it's still the first week of the season. The team is 3-3, and is tied with the Angels and Astros for the division lead. It could be a lot worse, and there is still plenty of time for the A's to settle in and find themselves. Today's loss stung, but it was definitely the most competitive baseball game the A's have been in all season. And the young A's, still without two key parts of the lineup and still learning how to work as a team, put up a strong fight against a tough Mariners team. If this game were to happen again in July, I have no doubts that a full, loose A's team would manage to pull off the victory.
So the ending wasn't great, and there were plenty of scapegoats, plenty of mistakes. But I just watched one heck of a baseball game, even if the wrong team won. And, after five months of waiting, I am content with that.
Besides, if the A's current pattern continues, expect them to crush Felix Hernandez by a final of 14-0 tomorrow. You heard it here first.
Jesse Hahn (0-1, 4.50 ERA) gets the call against King Felix (1-0, 1.29 ERA) in the rubber match of this three game set on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 P.M. PST. Fellow rookie praunlinde (Peggy) will host the preview, threads, and recaps in her Major League debut. Let's all try to shake today's game off and bounce right back to support our green and gold tomorrow. Go A's!