Special credit to Jeremy F. Koo for the perfect word of the night.
Tonight's game had all the early hallmarks of a vintage pitching duel, sort of, if you could forget the first part of this season. And the latter part of this game. Scott Kazmir and Chris Archer locked up for the first four innings, both allowing base runners and hits, but neither allowing any to cross the plate. The A's had the edge early; despite striking out eight times against Archer in the first four innings, they held a 1-0 lead, thanks to a solo home run by Stephen Vogt.
They also flashed a little leather in the field as well; in the second inning, Brett Lawrie got Kazmir out of the inning with two on and one out. Lawrie, playing close in case of a bunt, stepped on third, set himself and made a fast, strong throw to first for the inning-ending double play.
The third inning was as bad of an inning as a pitcher can have without it somehow resulting in a run, or five. The Rays started the inning with what looked like a double, but a terrific relay from Sam Fuld to Eric Sogard gunned down the runner at second base for the first out. The Rays followed with a single, and on a 3-2 count to the next batter, a strike out and a throw out ended the inning. WELL, THAT'S WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED. Instead, a terrible call (the pitch was unquestionably, unarguably right down the middle) rendered the strike a ball and cost Kazmir at least additional 10 pitches and pitching stress. It also upset the usually mild-mannered Stephen Vogt, who got up into the face of home plate umpire David Rackley, as you do when one should be out of the inning and instead end up with runners at first and second with one out. Kazmir and Vogt were shaken, but a nice play by Lawrie complete with a strong throw to get an out at home (also special thanks to the baserunner heading home on a ground ball to third base) and a three-pitch strikeout righted the ship and kept the game scoreless through three.
Vogt took his anger out on the ball and homered to open the fourth inning, right before Archer struck out the side. The Rays would add a two-out triple in their fourth, but Kazmir would strand that runner as well.
Billy Butler would walk and steal second base to open the A's fifth, but Sogard couldn't advance the runner. I mean, Parrino's no better at the plate, his 0-2, two strikeouts gave way to Marcus Semien in the sixth, who pinch-hit in a crucial part of the game (I'll save you the suspense; the A's failed).
The game-changing Rays' damage came in the bottom of the fifth on a harmless leadoff single. Muncy tried to field the resulting sacrifice bunt, but since he was out of position when Kazmir picked up the ball, Muncy was unable to get to the base. Which means that the worst pitch Kazmir threw all day resulted in a three-run home run by Evan Longoria instead of a two-run home run. And it didn't even matter that much.
I suppose we should credit the A's for coming right back and opening the sixth inning with two infield hits by Vogt and Lawrie, but Muncy flew out after swinging at two balls (awful) for the first out, the pinch-hitting Semien walked (should have swung at any of the balls, knowing what we know about the bottom of the lineup), Sam Fuld struck out (terrible) and Billy Burns hit the ball too hard and flew out. Yep, two on, no outs, and the A's fail to score a single run. As projected when the lineups came out, this was a 0-1 run lineup and it delivered in spades, the garbage run notwithstanding. I suppose they could have done us a favor and stopped getting runners on base all together; it would have sped up the march to certain loss and given us a longer Friday night.
The sixth inning would finally be the end of Kazmir, who deserved better than he got (a familiar refrain for our starting pitching staff), but an A's reliever (Evan Scribner, to be precise) and Reddick's strong arm threat got him out of the inning with no further damage.
Butler would add another single in the seventh, but like most of the A's hits, it came with no one on base. Lawrie would get on base after striking out to open the eighth, but despite stealing second base, he too, was stranded. Meanwhile, the Rays added two solo home runs, one off Scribner and one off Leon. If there's a bright side to the bullpen, it's that Abad came in and got out of a jam. I know. That's not helpful.
Cue the ninth. A swinging strike out, two hits for a tiny teAse, but the Rays' closer earned a cheap save by a three pitch strike out on Stephen Vogt after the A's picked up a garbage run.
That's all she wrote! Go get on with your night, and try to forget that it's actually baseball season. If you like pain and loss, we'll see you back here at 1:10PM our time tomorrow. -baseballgirl out.