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Game #31: Bullpen Blows Yet Another Game, A's Fall 4-3

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Despite holding a 3-1 lead in the seventh on the strength of another Josh Reddick home run, the A's bullpen was once again unable to hold a lead, costing Sonny Gray his fifth win and handing the A's yet another one-run loss.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Sonny Gray turns in a gutsy performance, scattering six hits and two walks, while striking out nine batters in his six innings. The only mistake he made was throwing a lot of pitches early; his pitch count was up to 104, forcing Melvin to take him out after the sixth inning. He left with a 3-1 lead, thanks to an RBI single by Butler and a two-run home run by Josh Reddick.

I don't think I need to tell you that the lead didn't last a single half inning after Gray came out of the game. You know it doesn't seem to matter who comes out of the bullpen, or how many good pitches they throw, the 2015 bullpen for the Oakland Athletics is destined to do the opposite of preserving a lead. Add tonight's game to the eight other losses for which the bullpen is directly responsible, and check the stat sheet for when the bullpen will have the worst ERA in the entire MLB. Starting the game, they were 29th with a 5.19 bullpen ERA, but I have great hope, especially with the runs allowed tonight. And yes, I know that's not entirely fair; the bullpen was supremely unlucky in tonight's game; Scribner made a single bad pitch and Abad pitched well (actually much better than we've seen him so far) but was beaten by a tough hit, but it's hard to separate tipping your hat to the other team's hitters and random bad luck from the general suckiness of the A's bullpen so far this year when the same thing happens night after night. Show of hands: Did anyone feel good about the 3-1 lead in the seventh?

Another show of hands: Did anyone think it would take more than one pitch past Clippard's outing for the game to be over? I thought as much. For those of you scoring at home, Dan Otero threw exactly one pitch to lose the game.

It must be disheartening for both the offense and the starting pitchers; no matter how many runs scored or how well you pitch, as soon as the bullpen enters the game, the game is over. Baseball shouldn't be like this. We shouldn't be afraid to call in a pitching replacement. Aside from calling up the entirety of Triple-A and demoting the whole bullpen, save for our new BFF Fernando Rodriguez and Tyler Clippard, I don't have a better solution. Neither does Melvin, except for getting angry along with the rest of us at nearly every game.

As long as this is the complaint section, it's not all that fun watching Eric Sogard as a starter. I understand that it wasn't supposed to be this way; both Zobrist and Ladendorf are out with injuries. I understand that in the past, Sogard has been a plus defender. But he's harder and harder to watch with every lousy at-bat and every error; he added another one today, making an ill-advised throw on a runner that was already safe, giving the runner a free base when the ball was thrown into the dugout. He seems like a great guy and a team player, which is why I feel a tiny bit guilty stalking Double-A for someone to play second base.

And just in case you weren't sure if the A's have been snakebit in every possible way since July of last year, both A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker have gone down today. We're awaiting news.

Here are things that make me happy; silver linings on the rapidly sinking ship that is baseball so far this season. Fernando Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who was passed over for the likes of Chad Smith, Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, and Fernando Abad for "pitchers who might be able to get outs this season out of the bullpen", did nothing except throw two scoreless innings in the futile cause yesterday afternoon, and came right back and pitched another two innings tonight to preserve, at the time, the 3-3 tie. Tyler Clippard. Melvin obeyed the golden rule of baseball: Thou Shalt Not Go Down With Your Best Pitcher On The Bench and pitched Clippard in the tie against the heart of the Mariners' order. The last time Clippard faced Nelson Cruz, bad things happened. He struck him out tonight and it was glorious.Josh Reddick. Reddick looks awesome at the plate and is having very good at-bats.

So predictably, the A's offense stopped doing anything right after their final chance in the eighth, but after they left a runner at third with one out, the proverbial nail in the coffin, it was only a matter of time; an inexorable march to the inevitable loss.

We do it all tomorrow. Let's hope that Jesse Hahn can pitch at least seven innings.