As comfortable as I am with tanking at this point, losing two of three to the Giants is never fun. As much as I want the fourth pick in the draft, I would've been overjoyed to sweep them. Unfortunately, the Giants are a better team than the September 2015 A's. Medicore trumps awful every time, and the A's are playing some awful baseball at the moment.
And, yeah, it was a one run loss. You know the script at this point. Earlier in the season, it was usually squarely on the bullpen's back – the A's would get an early lead, the starter would pitch a gem, and reliever would blow the game somewhere around the eighth inning. In the current iteration of the Athletics, the offense is perfectly adequate, but the starting pitching is unfathomably terrible.
Seriously, it's not good: with Sonny Gray on the shelf for the rest of the season, it looks like the rotation is Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin, Felix Doubront, Aaron Brooks, and Barry Zito (?). Exactly one of those people deserves a roster spot on a MLB team right now. I'm not exaggerating when I say that that is the single worst rotation I've ever seen the A's roll out. Injures suck.
Sean Nolin obviously has some work to do in the offseason – sports hernia surgery earlier this year has left his lower body function a mess. If you're looking for a reason behind his 86 MPH fastball, that's it. He looks seriously uncomfortable and stiff on the mound, and he's missing 5 MPH off his advertised fastball velocity. That sort of stuff leads to games like today.
He simply can't put hitters away with his velocity, despite some quality offspeed stuff. There's no point to having a good changeup if there's only a 5 MPH differential between it and his fastball. The curveball suffers from not having a quality fastball to keep the hitters honest. It's possible to rely on offspeed pitches (Zito did it), but Nolin's stuff just isn't Zito-tier.
Nolin allowed five runs on seven hits in his 2.1 innings. Two of which were unearned after a Brett Lawrie error, but he still kinda deserves credit for them. That's the sort of performance we're getting used to with this legendarily bad rotation. That is essentially Barry Zito's line yesterday, and we only started him out of sentimentality.
Most of the damage came via the sac fly -– three altogether. He allowed four sac flies his last time out. I suppose that's what happens when you're a supremely hittable fly ball pitcher, but that's still weird, right?
The bullpen was significantly more effective. Arnold Leon, Dan Otero, Daniel Coulombe, Edward Mujica, and Fernando Rodriguez combined for 6.2 scoreless. That's a welcome change of pace, even if no one looked particularly dominant doing so. It was probably the best Dan Otero's looked all year, so there's that.
The offense was fairly good too, lead by the rookies. Billy Burns continued his September tear (he's slugging .523 this month!!! Billy Burns is slugging over .500!!!!) by hitting a two-run double in the 5th. Okay, Brandon Crawford dropped a pop-up. Still counts in the stats as a double!
In the sixth, Max Muncy hit an opposite field RBI triple that came about three feet from being a home run. He reminds me a little bit of prime Billy Butler, with his combination of excellent plate discipline, average power, complete lack of speed, and a good feel to hit. I know that's the least encouraging comparison I could possibly come up with. Trust me, that's praise.
Stephen Vogt knocked him in with a single, but that's all the A's would get. The Giants' bullpen shut them down the rest of the way, and the A's ended their final homestand with an incredibly fitting one-run loss. Because of course they would.
At least the A's are tanking effectively: