You don't need to read this recap. If you've watched any Oakland A's games this year, then you've already seen this one. They pounded out 12 hits, but all were singles and only three runs came of them. Jesse Hahn was cruising with a 3-1 lead, but his defense let him down repeatedly in the fifth and the game got away from him. The bullpen made things worse, again with some help from the defense. Every short hop seemed to go the other way. The only differences were the lack of a late-inning tease, and the fact that it ended as a two-run margin rather than another one-run loss. Otherwise, it was deja vu all over again.
The first four innings were actually pretty good. The Yanks scored in the first, but it was due to a few clean singles rather than any big hits or A's errors. The A's strung together three singles of their own in the bottom half, but Marcus Semien was thrown out at the plate by a left fielder who was making his MLB debut. Okay, maybe the first inning kinda sucked. But the next three were actually pretty good! Hahn settled down and faced the minimum over the next three frames, and Oakland managed to break through for a few runs.
The third inning was the relatively big one for the A's. Billy Burns and Semien led off with singles, and Stephen Vogt followed with a three-run homer to right. Just kidding, the ball went foul by juuuust a few feet, because this is 2015 and all of our sports karma is going into an NBA title for the Warriors. Instead, Vogt hit a soft liner up the middle, but not a sure enough single for Burns to run on contact and score from second. The bases were loaded for Billy Butler, and in a pleasant twist he got the ball in the air and plated Burns with a sac fly. Josh Reddick followed with another hit to score Semien, and the A's suddenly had a lead! I've grown accustomed to seeing runners aaaalmost score and then somehow end up stranded, and it was nice to at least see two of these ducks come in from the pond.
Oakland added another run in the fourth. Eric Sogard singled to lead off, then made his way to second on a groundout, and finally scored on a two-out single by Semien. 3-1 A's, with Hahn looking great and New York starter Nathan Eovaldi clearly struggling! Of course, they had led off every single inning with a fast baserunner (Burns, Lawrie, Burns again, Sogard) and were yet to even attempt a stolen base, but at least they'd pushed something across.
And then it all came crashing down. Hahn got the first two outs in the fifth, and at 71 pitches he was doing just fine in terms of efficiency. But then, Eric Sogard flubbed a grounder up the middle that was ruled a hit; it wasn't a routine play and would have taken a solid throw, but Sogard has game and he would have had a shot at it. Next, Brett Gardner smoked a liner that went right into Brett Lawrie's glove at third ... and then popped right out the top of it. The ball went straight up, but Lawrie looked around in every other direction and it landed safely. He recovered quickly and delivered a strong throw to first that would still have gotten most runners, but Gardner beat it out easily. Then Chase Headley hit a bouncer that passed through a tub of molasses but still managed to reach center field to score a classic 2015 A's-style run. According to the broadcast, opponents have reached on errors 10 times while Hahn has been pitching, and they've scored eight unearned runs -- both of those marks top the American League. Meanwhile, Hahn's pitch count soared to 89 through five frames.
New York delivered the finishing blow in the sixth. Brian McCann drew a four-pitch walk with one out, and then Hahn left a pitch up to Carlos Beltran. The 38-year-old entered the game with a .239/.268/.387 line (82 OPS+), following a 2014 season with a 97 OPS+, but you still can't make too many mistakes against a guy with 376 career homers. He sent No. 377 over the center field fence to take a lead that his team never relinquished.
Just for good measure, though, New York added one more in the eighth. For some reason Arnold Leon was pitching, for a second inning no less, but he wasn't doing badly -- he actually struck out Gardner and A-Rod in the seventh. Mark Teixeira led off, and with a 3-2 count Leon got him to reach out and tap a grounder to first base ... but it just dribbled foul. On the next pitch, Tex hit one right off the mound. Semien was playing up the middle as part of a heavy shift, so the ball was right at him. But once it hit off the mound it took a completely different trajectory and ate him up, bouncing into center for what was fairly ruled a single. Seriously, don't blame Semien for that one; maybe a few guys react to that crazy hop fast enough, but it was not easy and a lot more guys would have missed it.
However, there must be someone to blame for what happened next. Tex, who wasn't being held on, surprised everybody by stealing second base on the first pitch, with such a huge jump that Vogt didn't even bother throwing. It was Tex's first stolen base since July 2014. Should the A's have been holding him on closer? Or was that just a "veteran moment" in which a smart player took advantage of an opportunity, in this case precisely because it was out of character, and all you can do is shake your head and sharpen up next time? When it happens in isolation, you can shake it off. When unfortunate things like this seem to happen every day, you have to wonder why you're sitting at a poker table and can't figure out who the fish is. (Note: It's you.)
Tex made his way to third with one out, and you might fairly question the next play-call. The next four scheduled hitters were:
1. Beltran, former superstar who had already homered earlier
2. Ramon Flores, 23-year-old making his MLB debut and going 0-for-3 so far
3 & 4. Didi Gregorius and Jose Pirela, two middle infielders whose OPS's combined barely clear 1.000
You might argue that Beltran should have been walked to get to those weaker hitters and set up a possible double play. Instead, Leon pitched to him, and Beltran beat the A's again by lacing an opposite-field RBI single.
You might argue the next play-call, as well, as "lefty specialist" Fernando Abad was called on to face the lefty Gregorius. Abad entered the game having allowed a 1.338 OPS to lefties and a .550 OPS to righties, but dammit he's left-handed and according to Bob Melvin's suddenly too-rigid platoon system that means he has to face every tough lefty. Never mind that he has the worst numbers on the entire active roster in that particular split. Anyway, this time it actually worked because Gregorius is that bad of a hitter, but it sure is getting old seeing this same mistake over and over when Abad has a consistent three-year track record of being better against right-handers. Especially when there's a better option waiting in Triple-A (post on that coming later).
Anyway, this game ended without the usual rally that falls barely short. The A's went quietly in the last four innings, with only a single in the eighth, and once again we were left scratching our heads wondering how such a promising half-game turned into such a run-of-the-mill loss. The starting pitcher was good enough to win, but the defense couldn't back him up and the short hops didn't help. The lineup got a ton of baserunners, but they couldn't get enough big hits to drive them in, and even when they did one of them got thrown out at the plate. The final score was 5-3, and it felt like the A's could just as easily have won by that score as lost by it.
The A's will have to wait one more day for their 20th win. If it comes on Sunday, they can at least come away with a series win. It'll be Jesse Chavez vs. Adam Warren at 1:05 p.m., and that's a matchup the A's need to take advantage of. Peggy will have your thread.
Want an artist's representation of the A's season so far? Here is Billy Burns in the fourth inning, throwing his bat at the ball and having it come to rest fair about 12 inches from the plate. Thud.
Let it go. LET IT GO! pic.twitter.com/nErjf5QS3o
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) May 31, 2015