Every fan of every team in baseball is convinced that they have a problem driving in runners in scoring position. In reality, it’s not really a problem for most of them. An RISP failure is one of those things that stick in your head, and RISP failures are something that make up the most frustrating losses.
The runs are RIGHT THERE. Just put a ball LITERALLY ANYWHERE IN PLAY. Come ON.
Apparently it’s harder than it looks!
Today’s game was a very different type of loss than we’re used to, and I suppose that counts for something. The A’s came into today’s game with the third best average for RISP, at .301. This team’s problem was never the clutch hitting — the runs were always there. But there had to be a bit of regression coming, and there had to come a time where the A’s completely failed at it. And completely fail at it they did!
The game started off on a horribly foreboding note: Coco Crisp and Marcus Semien opened the game with back-to-back walks, putting two on with nobody out. A Josh Reddick groundout put them on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Alas, after a Billy Butler groundout and a Brett Lawrie lineout, no runs scored. This one inning would be repeated over and over again until the end of the game.
Meanwhile, Sonny Gray was absolutely masterful against a strong Red Sox offense. He put up, for my money, his best start of the season — 9 strikeouts, no walks, 3 hits. That’s an 0.42 WHIP, and that’s fantastic. His fastball was on point, his curveball snapped, his slider was amazing, etc, etc. Just a perfect start, all things considered.
The only blemish was a bit of dumb luck for the Sox. In the second inning, he allowed a leadoff Hanley Ramirez single. Ramirez moved to second base on a wild pitch strikeout, and was driven in by a Daniel Nava bloopy-bloop-bloop that landed in left field. Nothing you can do about that.
The offense could do absolutely nothing to support him, though. Two on, one out? Stranded. A leadoff triple from Semien? Stranded at 3rd. Josh Phegley’s one out double? Stranded at 2nd. Two on, no one out AGAIN? Stranded. This game was incredibly frustrating — Sonny was obviously the better pitcher, and the A’s offense was obviously the better offense. The A’s were, in total, obviously the better team today. And they managed to get nothing done.
This didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but the Red Sox did tack on an insurance run in the 8th. Gray left, Evan Scribner was in. I know you all have some strong Pavlovian conditioning to wince at the bullpen entering a close game, but for once, it was not the bullpen’s fault. Scribner was fine, and is a great pitcher regardless. But Daniel Nava singled, Sandy Leon (the Red Sox catcher — I didn’t know who he was either) got hit by a pitch, and there were two on and two out. Dustin Pedroia hit a grounder to Semien, Semien threw the ball directly to a fan sitting behind the dugout, and a run came in to score.
Obviously, Semien’s defense is a problem. His offense more than makes up for it, but it’s a problem. I would absolutely not consider moving him off shortstop, though — he’s got the range and the arm strength to survive there. Every mistake I’ve seen from him has been from a lack of familiarity with the position: flubbing a routine grounder, rushing a throw and missing the target, missing a double play. This is correctable with playing time.
With the A’s in a deep hole, I’d consider contention in 2015 something neat, but not the goal at this point. The goal is to be building for 2016 and beyond. A big part of that would be to give struggling young guys as much rope as they need. Moving Semien to 2B or something similar would be the equivalent of a win-now move, something that could hamstring the future for a present improvement. The guy needs playing time, and the team should be completely content to let him work out his struggles.
Anyway, the A's were the better team today. The A's lost. This season is dumb.