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Game #110: Bullpen bullpens way to another loss

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Aaron Brooks pitched a gem but the pen blew his chance at a W. An A's tease tied it in the ninth, but the bullpen struck again in the 10th for a second consecutive extra innings loss.

Brehhh crushin' shakes.
Brehhh crushin' shakes.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

"The bullpen is an issue the A's will have to address" - Eric Chavez. Well said, old friend.

In the funnies' section the Sunday paper, I used to love playing spot the difference. It's a great way to keep a 10 year old occupied for like 9 seconds. I play that game today, but instead of spot the difference, the game is spot how many ways the A's blew this game! Hint: there are a lot.

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Like many a 2015 A's game, this one was a beaut through 7 innings. Aaron Brooks was a revelation again, going 7 innings allowing a single earned run (which really deserved the prefix ‘un'), while striking out 7. The A's newest starter benefited from the thick marine layer, keeping a few balls in the yard that could have easily left, but fortunately his best defender will be there to prevent dingers going forward. Welcome to the A's kid. Your first start was an aberration, get used to the lack of offense and leave the stadium when the pen enters the game.

Want to know how good Brooks has been?

Brooks lone run allowed scored in the first. Carlos Gomez laid down a gorgeous bunt single to Brett Lawrie who was playing an outrageously deep third. Gomez advanced to third on a single to left. This was not in the gap or down the line, the ball was hit directly to Coco whose noodle arm was unable to prevent Gomez from advancing. Old foe Jed Lowrie scored Gomez on a sac fly to right, and the Astros were up 1-0.

A few more notes on that opening frame:

-Gomez should have not scored in two ways: the bunt single was a bit of a gift, or at least a bad play and Coco's inability to throw anyone out was another key factor.

-Jed Lowrie looks dumb without facial hair.

-Josh Reddick's arm has completely abandoned him, and that is sad. If you watch the sac fly by Lowrie, Reddick throws a slow two hopper to the plate, a major departure from years past. RIP, Reddick's right arm. At least you're a badass hitter now!

After a tumultuous but scoreless top of the second, featuring a horrendous play by Eric Sogard, the A's tied the game on a long Stephen Vogt homerun to left center. Vogt has been mired in a slump and while the power hitting memories of early 2015 are fading, it's awesome to see him launch a ball like we know he can. The power he displays as a catcher from the left side is incredible and rare, even if he's been struggling lately.

Brett Lawrie mimicked Vogt's act in the fifth, absolutely demolishing a dinger to center. Per HitTrackerOnline, Lawrie's dinger was the furthest hit by an Athletic this year at home, trailing only Mitch Moreland by 7 feet for the furthest homerun total at O.co in 2015. Watch this beauty.

The score was 2-1 going to the 8th when Brooks departed the game. Not coincidentally, things went to shit the moment he left. Jose Altuve singled with one out off of Fernando Rodriguez. I don't meant to get overly worked up over a single, but it was on an 0-0 fastball right down the middle. Altuve is known as a free swinger and in his previous 3 at bats on the night, swung first pitch twice. If the A's have scouting reports, the bullpen doesn't receive them.

With two outs and Altuve on second, Carlos Correa blasted a 2-0 fastball into the leftfield bleachers, turning the 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 Astros lead. Again, the A's failed not only to execute but also to not be idiots. Correa is likely the rookie of the year in a strong class and a possible 2016 and beyond MVP candidate. There is no reason to throw a 2-0 dead center fastball with first base open to Correa, and yet the A's did.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/pitchergifs?src=hash">#pitchergifs</a> <a href="http://t.co/br6jwsX6NH">pic.twitter.com/br6jwsX6NH</a></p>&mdash; Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) <a href="https://twitter.com/based_ball/status/629543072213274624">August 7, 2015</a></blockquote>

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The Astros scored again in the inning, after Jed Lowrie walked on 4 pitches, Colby Rasmus lofted a soft line drive between Coco and Billy Burns, dropping for a single. Billy Burns, still devoid of baseball intelligence let the ball skip under his glove, allowing Lowrie to score. Like that, it was 4-2 Astros. If Burns merely knocks it down, you can take a run off the Astros count and just maybe the A's escape with  the W.

Unwilling to lose in non-painful fashion, the A's put on a successful 9th inning tease against everyone's favorite, Luke Gregerson. Vogt walked to open the inning and Brett Lawrie grounded to counterpart/similar name holder Jed Lowrie. Astros' Lowrie fielded the ball cleanly but launched a throw into right field, allowing Vogt to third, cancelling a possible double play, and giving the A's hope with no outs. Ike Davis came to the plate and singled to right, scoring Vogt and putting runners on the corners with 0 outs.

Semien followed with a predictable strikeout, an important and unclutch out that eventually doomed the A's. Eric Sogard followed with an unconvential but important walk to load the bases for Billy Burns. Burns swung first pitch per usual, hitting a groundball to second baseman Jose Altuve who flipped to Correa in an attempt to start the double play. Altuve's flip was too slow, and Burns beat out the throw on the back end, avoiding the double play and scoring Lawrie. Just like that, the game was tied and Coco came to the plate with a chance to win it. Coco gave it a ride and gave Glenn a premature rise, but unfortunately just got under it enough for Colby Rasmus to track it down in right.

It's unreasonable to be unhappy with the A's ninth; scoring 2 runs against a good closer (yes, Gregerson is good in spite of what 2014 might have told you) is always an impressive feat. That said, with the gifts the Astros gave the A's combined with an ill-timed strikeout, it's easy to envision a better team winning the game right there.

So, the game went to extras again and the A's called upon their closer, Eduardo Mujica to keep the score level. There are varying opinions of Mujica on AN, ranging from "he's terrible" to "he's bad". All you really need to know about the guy is that he was DFA'd this year by a team .5 games ahead of the A's in the standings.

Regardless, Bob Melvin is on team #tank, and Mujica did just that. Altuve opened with yet another hit, this one coming on another poorly placed fastball. Altuve stole second in spite of the A's calling a pitchout (have you heard that one before?) and moved to third on Gomez's bunt. Jed Lowrie plated Altuve on a predictable RBI double to left, and the Astros took the lead, 5-4.

The A's went down weakly in the ninth in spite of a Josh Reddick leadoff single. Billy Butler promptly grounded into a double play, hitting a ball directly to pitcher Will Harris. Butler's swing was in an 0-0 count, yet he still managed to make weak contact to the exact wrong spot on the diamond. Classic Billy.  Stephen Vogt ended the game with a shot to second, handled easily by Altuve and that was all she wrote.

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I'll sound like a broken record, but this game was yet another microcosm of 2015. The A's did plenty to be in the game, but unclutch hitting and the bullpen was the downfall again. A different play here or there, and the A's walk away with a tough victory against the division leading Astros. They of course, did not do this and we are one step closer to a very high draft pick.