After Stephen Vogt hit a monster slam to drive in four in the first inning against a struggling Phil Hughes, I thought the A's had it. I thought Jesse Hahn could hold the lead. I thought wrong.
Billy Burns led off the game with a double, but was erased on an amateurish baserunning error (got caught in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd on Semien's comebacker). At that point it seemed that the A's would waste another chance. But Josh Reddick walked to get two on, two out for the scuffling Billy Butler. Country Breakfast's grounder found a hole and loaded the bases for (I BELIEVE IN) Stephen Vogt, who promptly launched an inside fastball from Hughes over the right field wall to give the a A's a 4-0 first inning lead.
The A's maybe should have been up 5-0 after the first inning. Following Vogt's slam, Ike Davis made a baserunning mistake, not touching second base and running back to avoid being called out. He likely would have scored on Brett Lawrie's double that followed. Would that run make a difference? It didn't seem that it would, but it may have in the end.
That being said, the offense was fine. You can blame this one on the pitching. Hey, but you can't (fully) blame this one on the bullpen at least. They only allowed the go-ahead homer, after Jesse Hahn blew the 4-0 lead.
Hahn could not locate his pitches today. The movement was there but major league pitches can hit good pitches if they catch enough of the plate, and so it went for Hahn who allowed three singles and two doubles in the third inning to give all of Vogt's RBIs right back to the Twins. Thus, we had a new ballgame after the third inning.
Hughes settled down after the grand slam until Mark Canha got to him on his 91st pitch, in the top of the sixth. Canha jumped on a 2-1 fastball and launched it into the second deck to notch his fourth home run of the season. What a revelation he's been.
Of course, Hahn staked with a lead meant Hahn had to give up a lead. A single and a double ushered him out of the sixth inning in favor of RJ Alvarez. This meant the young, wild, Alvarez was handed a near-impossible situation with runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs.
He got the pitch he needed. Jordan Shafer made a check swing flail against an offspeed number from Alvarez,
inducing a sure out and failing to advance the runners which of course turned into disaster. Shafer was completely fooled, yet RJ couldn't get down to field Shafer's slow roller and get the out. Eric Sogard failed to back him up with a barehand play to get Shafer at first after the run scored. So they got no outs and allowed a run in a situation that by all accounts should have been one out and no runs in. Alvarez followed with a key strikeout and induced a shallow fly ball to get two outs.
If you're keeping score, Alvarez would have been out of the inning, escaping with the lead, if he could competently field his position. Instead, he threw two straight fastballs to Torii Hunter. The wily old veteran cheated and timed the second fastball, launching it out of Target Field to give the Twins an 8-5 lead. They held on, but just by the skin of Glen Perkins' teeth.
The A's scratched and clawed for one run in the 8th inning, thanks to a Craig Gentry bunt single (a beautiful slow roller down the third base line that just stopped 80 feet up) and a single by the quietly heating up Brett Lawrie. Canha's groundout scored Gentry. The A's almost got another run back, but Shafer robbed Eric Sogard of a bloop that would have driven in Lawrie from second (the play was initially called a trap, but correctly reversed on replay) to end the inning.
Chris Bassit almost allowed a few more runs by allowing a double and walking two batters (that's five in his last two outings) but he managed to escape the jam with a strikeout and a double play to maintain the two run deficit.
In the 9th, the A's bats never stopped fighting. Josh Reddick singled up the middle. With two outs, Vogt (at that point 2-4 in the game) came up to the plate representing the tying run. He absolutely launched a pitch from All-Star closer Glen Perkins out to right field. Hunter thought it was gone. Perkins thought it was gone. A's radio man Vince Cotroneo thought it was gone. But nay, the mighty Vogt could not muscle it over the 23 foot high wall in right-center at Target Field. It bounced off the wall for a double, and the meek Gentry struck out to end the game. Another bullpen failure, and another comeback falling short.
The A's have put up seven runs in four straight games. They are 2-2 in those four games. That is completely inexcusable. The seven runs are obviously encouraging, but this bullpen needs to be shored up quickly.
That all being said, if I think back to losing seasons of yesteryear, the theme was we could never score runs. The games were just boring as heck. At least these A's are mashing, which makes the games somewhat entertaining. Yes, I'm aware it's small consolation, but that's all I got right now.
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