Tonight's contest was weird, and crazy, and heart-wrenching, and terrible. For now, let's not dwell on that, and let's take a quick look at why the two main knee-jerk reactions are so wrong:
1. Blow up the bullpen
How? The AAA Nashville bullpen isn't exactly good either. Are Chad Smith, Pat Venditte, and Jim Fuller really going to save the A's season? Who else is out there, Rafael Soriano's ghost? There are few (if any) options available that have a higher chance of being serviceable than the Athletics' current relievers have of bouncing back.
2. Fire Melvin
Hahahahahaha. No. Melvin has had no choice but to cross his fingers every night, hoping one of his once-dominant relievers will return to form for an out or two. He cannot be expected to have Evan Scribner and Tyler Clippard throw every relief inning in every close ball game. He's doing the best he can with a group of underperforming relievers.
Now that that's out of the way, the game. Things started off looking fantastic for Oakland - after a late win the previous night, just-recalled Billy Burns led off the game with a first-pitch single. A Marcus Semien double moved him to third, where Josh Reddick would push him in with an RBI groundout. Billy Butler then hit a grounder hard to Adrian Beltre, who easily threw out Semien at the plate. However, the A's had taken an early 1-0 lead.
This lead wouldn't last. After giving up back-to-back two-out singles to Prince Fielder and Beltre, Drew Pomeranz would allow a deep RBI double from former Athletic Kyle Blanks. While the A's offense couldn't put much together against the league's ERA leader Nick Martinez, Pomeranz continued to struggle, giving up a Beltre RBI single in the third and a Blanks solo homer in the sixth. The A's were down 3-1 going into what would be a crazy seventh inning.
Ike Davis led off the top of the seventh by lining one the other way just under Elvis Andrus' glove for an error. Brett Lawrie followed with a clean single, and then Mark Canha lined one off of the second base umpire for a free base. The bases were loaded with nobody out, and Josh Phegley came up clutch, by...getting hit in the hand with an 0-2 fastball. Hey, it works. The hit-by-pitch ended Martinez's night. Replacing him was lefty Alex Claudio, who only took one pitch to give up a deep game-tying sac fly to pinch hitter Craig Gentry.
With men on the corners and one out, Billy Burns decided to try a bunt play. Except, Mark Canha (on third base) didn't know about it. Canha got caught in a pickle for about three seconds, which is how long it took catcher Robinson Chirinos to chuck the ball into left field. The A's took a 4-3 lead, and two batters later, Josh Reddick stayed hot by smacking a three run homer to deep right field. That swing gave the A's all the insurance they would need.
Except, it didn't. Chris Bassitt walked two batters with one out, prompting a switch to Dan Otero. Otero got an out, but then gave up an RBI single to - guess who? - Kyle Blanks. In came Fernando Abad to face the lefty Shin-Soo Choo - who, at the time, sported a batting average lower than Billy Burns' weight - and Abad wasted no time in giving up a game-tying three run blast. If you blinked, you might have missed it, but in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Athletics' lead vanished.
The A's managed two runners each in both the eighth and ninth innings, but hard lineouts from Sam Fuld and Billy Butler ended the rallies. Evan Scribner dominated the bottom of the eighth inning, and Ryan Cook was good enough in the ninth, bringing the game into extra innings.
In the top of the tenth, rookie Max Muncy lined a one-out double into the right field corner. Stephen Vogt strode to the plate, ready to give the A's the lead with a hard line drive to the right side...right into Kyle "I'm Getting Really Sick of This Guy" Blanks' mitt. Blanks tossed the ball to second to double off Muncy and end the threat.
Then, in the bottom half of the tenth, it was more of the same for Ryan Cook. Double, Walk, Walk to a guy OPSing .450 and two batters with career OBPs under .283. Cook was pulled in favor of R.J. Alvarez with the bases loaded and nobody out, and Rougned Odor quickly grounded one past Marcus Semien to end the game and give the Rangers the 8-7 walk-off win.
The A's probably didn't deserve to win tonight's contest, as they were pretty much handed every one of those runs in the seventh inning. However, regardless of whether they should have taken the lead or not, they did, so they should have defended it. The A's management will not stand pat with the bullpen if this continues, and they will surely tinker, but in the end it comes down to Dan Otero and Fernando Abad snapping out of it and throwing like they did in 2014. If those two can't do that, then this team may be in for more losses like tonight's, leading to a poor record and a disappointing season. Let's all hope that BoMel said something in the clubhouse tonight to snap these relievers out of it.
Sunday's game begins at 12:05 PST. Young ace Sonny Gray will try his best to not need the bullpen as he faces off against Yovani Gallardo. Jon will host you for tomorrow's Opening Night rematch. Let's all get a good night's sleep and try to shake this one off.