This game, man. I don't even know what to say about this game. If this was a team at the top of the AL, bound for the playoffs, it would feel like a "can't-win-em-all" type of loss. The A's performed so well in so many different ways and lost in such a bizarre manner, you're tempted to not even consider it as a part of any narrative about this season.
But this isn't a team perched at the top of the American League. This is a team that is clawing and scratching its way out of the cellar. This is a team that has managed to lose in pretty much every way under the sun. And you know, even when the losing run is a direct result of a phantom balk call, you're kinda tempted to chalk it up to fate.
If ever there were a team to make phantom balks a "skill" and not luck, it would be your 2015 Oakland Athletics
Kazmir was dominant today, and he deserved better. His official line was 7 IP and 3 ER, but that's incredibly misleading considering how those runs were scored. In my imaginary linescore, he's maybe on the hook for one of those. Every pitch he had was working – he threw a couple of absolutely incredible changeups – and despite a loss of control late in the game, he was about as good as he's been all this year.
The Royals scored their first run on the aforementioned phantom balk. With a runner on second, the home plate umpire saw... something as Kazmir stepped off the rubber. It absolutely wasn't a real balk (the balk is a terrible, vague rule anyway), but the runner moved to third. The Royals scored him on a sac fly. Just a case of the worst luck possible.
We're at the point in the season where every start Scott Kazmir makes could be his last in the green and gold. That is really, really depressing, because I've thoroughly loved having him on the team. Between his incredible comeback in independent ball, the absolute fire he pitches with, and the fact that he's been ace quality for at least 6 out of the 8 months he's played baseball in Oakland, he'll go down as one of my favorite short-term A's.
This little retrospective is a bit premature, but man, if the A's keep losing games like this he is not long for Oakland.
The A's had every chance to win today. They left men in scoring position in the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 8th inning. They certainly didn't hit Chris Young well, but they hit him enough to score more than 2 runs on a normal day.
Of course, the 2 runs they did score were gifts as well. The A's got the first gift in the first inning, when Sam Fuld doubled and stole third seeing that the Mike Moustakas was shifted way over, away from the bag. Young threw over, but couldn't hit the moving target , the ball trickled into left field, and Fuld was able to walk home.
In the fifth, another gift was given by the kind and generous Royals: Eric Sogard made it to second base, Brett Lawrie hit a slow grounder to Alcides Escobar. Escobar then served up the Marcus Semien special – a terrible throw on a routine play, allowing the runner to score from second.
That temporarily gave the A's the lead, and I wish it had lasted, if only for the lulz. Winning a game against the Royals by virtue of an Escobar E-6 on a Brett Lawrie ground ball would have been absolutely trolltastic, given their history.
But these are the 2015 A's, and that was not to be. A walk, a single, a double steal, and a bloop single from Kendrys Morales immediately gave the Royals back the lead. With the Royals bullpen, a lead in the 6th inning is deadly.
That wasn't the end of the excitement today, though - a rare 8th inning teAse against Wade Davis almost got the A's back into the thing. Davis was obviously struggling with his control, walking the first two batters. Lawrie almost became the first person since 2012 to hit a home run off of Wade Davis in relief, but the ball drifted just foul. But with two on and nobody out, Stephen Vogt struck out looking on a great cut fastball and Ben Zobrist grounded into a double play. Just terrible.
The difference in the game was five feet of hook on a Brett Lawrie home run, the home plate umpire hallucinating a balk, Vogt swinging at ball four in the 8th inning, a double steal against a catcher with a gun for an arm, and a bloop falling in for a 2 RBI single. Does that mean anything? That's the question of the season. We're two games removed from a dominant 5-game winning streak. There's obviously a good team hidden in here - just buried under mounds and mounds of bad luck.
Maybe Beane used some Monkey's Paw magic to get Zobrist here. Maybe the team somehow offended a witch. Maybe Phegley broke a mirror while admiring his guns. This team, man. Who knows.