If you polled A's fans in the top of the sixth asking who would win this game, I would imagine 95% of votes would go to the Yankees.
This game had that kind of feel to it. The A's couldn't do anything right in the early going, the bats were silent, and an early Brian McCann solo homerun looked like the A's lost their chance at running out the clock and ending in a tie. Seriously, this was the A's sole highlight in the fourth.
This is an actual A's highlight: http://t.co/3gxiGui1BM— Tim Fong (@teckertfong) May 29, 2015
(I apparently still don't know how to embed video.)
It's not even a good play really, a better ball boy gets that ball without diving and makes a less spectacular play. But I digress.
The A's went down 2-0 on arguably the dumbest run in baseball history. With runners on first and second, Brian McCann hit a sharp groundball up the middle pasta diving Semien. It wouldn't have been an easy play for any shortstop, but I think if you put some in Semien's spot, they make the play. At any rate, a charging Billy Burns fired home a strong throw to nail Yankees DH/Asshole Alex Rodriguez. Unfortunately for the A's, the game glitched out and Josh Phegley forgot to extend his arm to tag the runner. If you watch the video it's clear Phegly has ample time to to take a half step or extend his arm to get a huge first out and prevent a huge second run. He does neither of those things, however, and in a way that is emblematic of the 2015 season, the A's found themselves down 2-0.
In the bottom of the frame, the A's got a run back in the unlikeliest yet kinda most likely way of all. On a first pitch slider, Billy Burns crushed a homerun that was so close to staying in, Jason Kendall would have blushed. Coming from the right side, it was a welcome site for a team that has struggled so mightily against southpaws, and for a player who hasn't found his groove from his less common hitting side.
In the sixth, Kendall Graveman gave way to Fernando Abad with two on, two out, and lefty Didi Gregorious coming to the plate. Coming in to today, Abad's numbers vs lefties were 12 for 30 with 4 homeruns and an OPS of 1.424. True story, when I was 12 I kept stats on batting practice, and while I can't tell you the exact numbers, I can tell you that most players don't hit 4 homeruns during batting practice. Fernando Abad has been outpitched by Yasiel Puig's home run derby pitcher this year. AN collectively closed its eyes, turned away, and what happened? Oh. A flyball out. Huh.
In the bottom of the sixth, the A's got a runner to third on a Zobrist double and a Billy Butler flyball. He actually hit the ball in the air! The A's best hitter Stephen Vogt stepped to the plate on his own bobblehead night, ready to be the hero, but instead flailed at a slider away. Yet another failure with RISP and less than 2 outs, and the A's fate seemed sealed. Instead, however, Brett Lawrie launched a ball deep into the left field bleachers (compared to Billy Burns, at least) tying the game at 3. It was a glorious moment for the embattled third baseman, who proceeded to almost murder his teammates in excitement. You can't help but feel happy for the guy who is clearly pressing and clearly wants to help his team.
The A's added two crucial runs in the seventh thanks to a bases loaded walk to Ben Zobrist and a sac fly by Billy Butler. For those of you keeping track, that's two flyballs in one game for our large DH.
The eighth flew by thanks to a filthy performance by Evan Scribner. If you are still skeptical of Evan Scribner, I highly encourage you to find video of his performance today. In true set up man fashion, Scribner struck out two of the three hitters in the inning thanks to a beautiful mix of his filthy curveball and comparatively hard cutter. He had his best stuff working, and the Yankees didn't stand a chance.
The ninth wouldn't go without a Yanktease, however. After retiring the first two hitters, A's closer Tyler Clippard walked pinch hitter Garrett Jones and then served up a double to left fielder Brett Gardner, plating a run, and sending AN into a state of panic. Fortunately, Chase Headly ended the game with a line drive to center fielder Billy Burns. While Clippard's performance was frightening, I do appreciate his ability to bring us a one run victory, raising our record on the year from 2-15 to 3-15. Progress.
Some other notes:
-Marcus Semien had 3 chances tonight, and all three of his throws were high and off the bag. He ended with only one error thanks to some solid defense by first baseman Stephen Vogt, but he looks like he's got a major case of the yips. With a worse first baseman (say Mark Canha, or Max Muncy, or Nate Frieman, just hypothetically) and the shortstop's error tally would be up by three tonight. If you're looking for positivity, throwing errors are arguably much more fixable than fielding errors. If you're not looking for positivity, well, just look.
-Kendall Graveman was ok tonight. His cutter didn't move quite like it did in Tampa Bay, however for the most part, Kendall kept the ball down and battled without his best stuff. He routinely gets into trouble when he gets behind in counts, a problem that is very present, but also fixable. Look for the A's to work on his cutter and his ability to get ahead in the coming days. He ended up with 8 groundballs to one flyball which is exactly what he wants to do.
-Brett Gardner is pretty good, but he swings like he's right handed. Every time he steps in the box, I half expect him to hold the bat the wrong way or stand on the plate. I just cannot wrap my mind around the fact that he is good.
The A's are back at it with the evil empire tomorrow night, when old man and bad pitcher Chris Capuano faces off against Sonny Gray.