Seasons like this are tough to fight through. The A's are in a worse position than they were in early 2012, with arguably a more talented team. It's tough to know what to think - rooting for a draft pick feels like giving up, but rooting for a playoff spot feels like false hope. It's frustrating, and being obviously Astros-bad might be a little easier. Maybe.
Games like these make the entire season a little easier - the fact that a game wasn't over after a boring and hopeless 7 innings is going to make the next boring and hopeless game much, much easier to deal with. It means a lot that this team was capable of something like this, and it means a lot that they aren't simply giving up on the season. Maybe it won't mean anything in terms of playoff hopes, and maybe it won't mean anything in terms of how this team performs from here on out. But hey, they're capable of some fight, and they're capable winning those fights in the 9th inning. That's valuable! That's something!
The A's started off on a familiar note: leaving runners in scoring position. It's been a plague lately, the main reason why these A's are losing so many games. Even as a dedicated believer in sabermetrics and the randomness of these things, it's been enough to give me pause - maybe this is just a feature of this team? I don't know.
After back-to-back singles from Billy Burns and Josh Reddick, Ben Zobrist knocked in a run with an RBI fielder's choice - almost a double play, but Zobrist managed to beat it out on his bad knee. Stephen Vogt took a walk, leaving the A's with 2 on and one out, and the opportunity to pile on. Alas, after Billy Butler lined-out and Brett Lawrie struck out, the A's walked away with only one run scored.
The A's wouldn't get much more than that off of Yovani Gallardo, and Jesse Hahn wouldn't be able to hold the Rangers down. Hahn had potentially the worst game of his young career, hitting three (!!!) batters, including a bases-loaded RBI HBP, and allowing 4 runs. It could've been much worse, considering he had absolutely no command of any of his pitches.
He allowed 3 runs in the 3rd on a parade of singles, HBP, and walks and one more in the 4th before being replaced by Pat Venditte, hero #1 of this game. Venditte didn't have great command, but he went 2.1 innings of hitless ball, striking out 3 and walking 2. The bullpen in general was incredible - Venditte, Abad, Scribner, and Clippard allowed exactly one hit and pitched 5.1 scoreless.
Gallardo managed to keep the A's offense almost entirely in check, at one point getting 10 straight batters out, of which 7 were strikeouts. They did get one run in the 4th inning, on a Stephen Vogt bloop double, passed ball allowing him to get to 3rd, and a Brett Lawrie RBI groundout. The A's really managed to manufacture some runs today, which is impressive. After that, Gallardo was brilliant and there was nothing the A's could do.
But, thanks to the 30 pitches the A's forced Gallardo to throw in the first, the A's got to exploit some soft bullpen underbelly in the 8th. Reddick singled to start things off, and Ben Zobrist backed him up with another single. Some aggressive baserunning manufactured another run here - Reddick went first to third, and Zobrist took second when the throw came into third. Rangers rookie 3B Joey Gallo rushed the throw, threw it into right field, and a Reddick came in to score. A Butler single scored Zobrist from third. Max Muncy almost hit a homer to take the lead right there, but the Coliseum at night is brutal and the ball died on the warning track. C'est la vie.
The A's have stopped at this point in the past - they've run out of steam just short of a successful comeback, the bullpen would blow things, and the offense would give up. Not this time: in the 9th inning, the A's actually, actually, actually succeeded. It was another manufactured run - a Sam Fuld single and stolen base, followed up by a Billy Burns infield single and a Reddick groundball. Fuld just barely managed to slide in ahead of the tag, and the A's actually managed to complete a comeback.
Man, it feels like a weight's been lifted. God. I much prefer 2012's awesome, exciting walk-offs, thank you very much. Let's have more of those. Please.