The A's just lost a game in which they gave up 1 hit. Seriously. One. Freaking. Hit. Offensively, nothing happened. If you look at the box score, it says the A's had 8 hits and while drawing two walks, but I'm pretty sure that's wrong. Angels pitchers threw a perfecto, and I don't think anyone entered the batters box. It was the easiest 2-0 victory in baseball history.
On the mound for the Angels was Nick Tropeano, who I think we can all agree is the next Jerome Williams/Colby Lewis/Felix Hernandez. His stuff is nothing like any of those guys, but he just gives me the "we will never beat this guy" vibe. His changeup was a weapon today, as was the A's simultaneous over/under aggression, swinging at sliders out of the zone and freezing and fastballs in it. In his first start with the Angels, Tropeano went 6 innings, giving up 5 hits while striking out 5 before being pulled by Mike Scioscia-path. I don't want to take too much away from a kid getting his first MLB win, and while his stuff was good, the line just didn't match. The A's need to be able to score off guys like this in order to win a tight division.
The bright spot today for the A's was Jesse Chavez, who without his absolute best stuff shut down the Angels. Jesse went six strong innings, giving up 2 runs (one earned) on a Kole Calhoun dinger. Aside from the dinger and a few walks, Jesse looked great. His cutter darted in and out of the zone while he jumped ahead in counts using his curveball. Really, he looked like early 2014 Jesse. His fastball routinely sat between 93-95 with lots of life. Most importantly, Jesse made this unwinnable game go quickly. In a swift 2.5 (seriously, that's swift these days), the A's got out of town without having to resort Ike Davis pitching. I'm not sure if that's a negative or a positive.
It was a welcome reminder that the A's pitching depth is unrivaled, especially after Kendal Graveman's underwhelming start. With today's outing, I would expect Chavez to actively compete for a spot in the rotation going forward.
The A's bullpen was solid as well. Dan Otero kept his scoreless streak against the Angels alive, pitching a clean 7th while Clippard handled an uneventful 8th. With the bullpen being a major weakness thus far in 2015, a clean team outing is a welcome site.
The unearned run today came courtesy of Brett Lawrie, who's throwing error gave the Angels the insurance run they never needed. Brett looked horrible at the plate as well, going 0-4 with 2 strikeouts, all while taking 2 years off of Trainman's life. Lawrie's Crosbianeque propensity to chase sliders is an alarming novelty that pitchers are catching onto. In 2015, 33% of pitches seen by Lawrie have been sliders, up from 18.9% just a year ago. In Kansas City, fans smile gleefully while poking their Lawrie VooDoo dolls.
All is not lost, however. The A's finish their first road trip going 5-5 against three quality teams who will likely be in the thick of it for at least a few more months. Going .500 on the road during any season is an accomplishment, so to do so against 2 playoff teams and the up and coming Astros is no small feat. To do so without your best player (and with Eric Sogard starting) is a victory. At a game under .500, the A's sit behind only the Astros in the division. The season has gone exactly as many expected it to: no teams pulling away in a talented division. It's disheartening to see the A's throw away opportunity after opportunity to pull away from the pack in the early going, but being in the thick of this AL West isn't so bad.
Ben Zobrist pinch hit in the ninth today. While he recorded the last out, his bat was a welcome presence on a team already showing its lack of depth. With the bench today consisting of Craig Gentry, Josh Phegley, and Cody Ross, the A's can't afford to lose guys who can start against both hands.
The A's face Dallas Keuchel and the Astros tomorow night, with Scott Kazmir on the mound for the A's. Vegas has the over/under at 32 for amount of back stretches+grimaces for the A's hurler. The A's magic number remains 145 with five months to play.