Same story, bullpen meltdown, defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, blah blah, etc. etc.
Except that's the other team's recap tonight.
Watching that sweet sweet meltdown, it was like we got that hot fudge on top of that sundae, peanuts sprinkled on top, whipped cream, cherry, the whole works. So, so good. Bask in the failure of the Rangers bullpen for a moment.
It wasn't us. IT WASN'T US!
No, these A's came all the way back to take a game they had no business winning. And damn it feels good.
Down 5-0 in the 8th inning, after Scott Kazmir turned in a quality start (literally the minimum, six innings, three earned runs), and yet another bullpen failure with Fernando Abad allowing two more in the seventh, it all seemed hopeless and pointless. The A's once again got worked by Colby Lewis (how? why?) as the Cheeseman smothered the A's for six shutout innings. Oakland managed a total of eight baserunners in the first seven innings. Lifeless and ugly was pretty much the summary. Kyle Blanks and Prince fielder homered to key the Texas offense. And the A's looked like they were ready to hit the AL West cellar tomorrow.
And then the 8th inning happened. It really seemed like nothing at the start. The fanbase was in a foul mood after the bullpen took a possible three-run comeback and turned into an impossible five-run deficit.
The first thing that happened was Shawn Tolleson came in to pitch. The right-hander, over about 119 career innings, has put up a 3.19 ERA. In other words, he's serviceable. He's just the guy you would put in when your team is up by five and trying to bring it home.
But he didn't have it today.
The comeback started off with a belt high fastball down the middle to Mark Canha (pictured above). Canha blasted it over the 407 sign in right-center, the deepest part of the park, for a solo homer. Wow this guy has power. Unbelievable that the A's just got him for free. 5-1 A's, and hopelessness still prevailed, but at least we could appreciate a nice showing by the rookie.
Eric Sogard followed by slapping a grounder for his second hit of the day, giving the A's a baserunner, and a little rally. Sam Fuld continued his slump but at least advanced Sogard to scoring position on the fielder's choice.
Marcus Semien walked, and then the A's had two on, one out, still down by 4. Not exactly exciting...yet, but at least it was watchable baseball, a stark improvement over the previous seven innings.
Next up was Steven Vogt. At this point I freaking believe, as does everyone in the A's Nation. And why wouldn't we believe? The guy is playing at an MVP level at this point. He didn't disappoint, hitting a ballooning change up for a line drive base hit and scoring Eric Sogard.
Hm...just one out, two on, and the score was 5-2. Of course, it was the 8th inning. One double play ball and it was pretty much game over, another too little, too late type of night. Nevertheless, cautious optimism seeped into the minds of the A's fans...however it would end, at least the A's did something.
Next up though was the A's coldest hitter. You know what happens when gravy gets cold? It's thick, gelatinous, and generally gross[er than it usually is]. That's Billy "Country Breakfast" Butler over the last 25 ABs or so. Thankfully he struck out and didn't hit into a double play. If you can't keep a rally going, at least don't kill it. Not exactly the greatest endorsement of your cleanup hitter hitting with two on but hey, whatever.
Max Muncy pinch hit for the (so far) useless Cody Ross, and the Rangers countered by pulling Tolleson for Roman Mendez. I didn't know anything about Mendez, but I'm a huge fan at this point thanks to tonight's performance. Mendez kept throwing strikes to Muncy, and the Baylor alum who grew up a short drive from the Ballpark at Arlington kept fouling off pitch after pitch. 8 pitches later, he got a hard-earned stroll to first base in front of dozens of friends and family. Bases loaded, two outs, still 5-2.
The A's had Josh Reddick on deck. Reddick had been known for failing with the bases loaded repeatedly. He was among the bottom five year after year in bases loaded hitting stats, and had the worst clutch score of any active player with significant plate appearances. We all remember his awful bases loaded at bat against Max Scherzer in the ALDS, where he looked like a clueless flailing puppy. But this is 2015, and Reddick is a changed man. Josh came into this game hitting .368 with a .990 OPS. In other words, Josh Reddick was the exact guy you, the A's fan, wanted up in that situation. And he came through big time with a soft line drive, just easing the ball over the middle past an outstretched Elvis Andrus, plating two and sending Muncy to third.
At this point, I wanted to be excited. I really did. I wanted to believe. But my thoughts kept going back to the seventh inning and Abad's two runs. If the bullpen was halfway competent the A's would have tied the game by then.
But now we were treated to Brett Lawrie at the plate, and the Rangers wasted no time in going to Neftali Feliz to lock the game down. Feliz got Lawrie to a full count (like yesterday, Lawrie showed a patient at bat and generally much better discipline). And then Feliz threw a chase pitch, a high fastball, that he knew Lawrie would chase out of the zone. Earlier this season, Lawrie practically used an overhead tomahawk to reach for a fastball way out of the zone to get a base knock. Lawrie loves the high fastball. Now I see why he loves it. Against all odds, Lawrie lasered a double to right field that bounced around in the corner for Shin Soo-Choo, allowing Reddick to score all the way from first base.
That's right. Lawrie got the hit. The hit that we are never treated to, the hit that we're never supposed to have, the hit that wasn't bringing us just short, just to a tie. The A's erased a 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 advantage, all in one inning, against three different relievers. Catharsis, elation, joy, whatever appellation you want to put on it...it was all of that and then some. The whole freaking hot fudge sundae of sweet sweet comeback (and it's corollary, the perfectly delicious bullpen meltdown).
Just for good measure, Canha, in his second appearance of the inning, drove in Brett Lawrie to stake the A's to a 7-5 lead. A lead that would not be relinquished after an uneventful 8th and 9th inning by Evan Scribner and Tyler Clippard, respectively.
I still can't believe the A's won this one. It's crazy what kind of a difference a game makes; we probably make too much out of momentum for the players, but in terms of the fans' momentum, losing five out of six games on the homestand and laying a 5-0 turd to start the road trip would have been devastating. But now the A's have us all doubling down, buying back in. And we love 'em for it.