Kendall Graveman, Marcus Semien, and Billy Burns deserved better. Those three youngsters (with a little help, of course) seemingly willed the A's to victory by themselves. The bullpen wouldn't have it, though, as for the first time this year, it was the relievers who let the A's down. At the end of the day it's another painful one run loss by a count of 5-4.
In Play, Billy Run(s)
Billy Burns has been a bit of an afterthought with Coco Crisp's resurgence, but tonight he reminded us he's a pretty good player himself. He started the bottom of the first with a walk, something he needs to do more often. He promptly stole second (against a lefty!!), and didn't look back, which is an exciting development. He moved to third on Josh Phegley's flyball to rightfielder Kole Calhoun and scored on a seeing eye single by the hot hitting Josh Reddick.
Phegley and Reddick obviously played a key role in getting Burns in, but that run was largely his own doing. His stole 90 feet by swiping second and is one of probably two or three players who could actually tag up and take third against Calhoun's exceptional arm. That was smart Billy and I hope to see more of him instead of his evil twin brother who looks back when he steals second and leaves the milk out after pouring a bowl of cereal.
Billy's run put the A's up 1-0 after one inning.
Graveman can't shut them down
In the top of the second, the Angels tied the game back up thanks to some less than stellar defense by the A's and some poor command from Graveman. A walk to Pujols was followed by a hard single to Cole Kalhoun under the glove of Mark Canha. I love Canha, but it's likely Kalhoun's single is turned into a double play if better Daric Barton (Yonder Alonso) is playing. Andrelton Simmons followed with a real GIDP to third, scoring Pujols. Valencia probably could have cut Pujols down at the plate but chose to turn two. It's probably the right choice but it is hard to watch the A's give up runs with their current brand of offense doing very little and with the benefit of hindsight.
Graveman labored a little longer thanks to a walk and a shift induced single, but eventually got out of the inning unscathed in the run department. His pitch count took a beating, and that's something Graveman needs to work on.
[Insert Semien joke here]
In the bottom of the third, Marcus Semien led off with an absolute blast into the left-field stairs. Semien, one of my very favorite A's, can mash lefties and just has so much power. I love watching good Semien play and tonight was an example of that.
By the way, no one ever talks about our awesome stairs. How many ballparks have stairs featured prominently like the Coliseum? None. The Astros have a hill. Oh cool, a hill. Those exist in nature you dummies. Stairs are a terrific example of human innovation and are much better for climbing, especially in the rain. Don't have cleats? Good luck on that hill. Stairs are underrated, just like the Coliseum.
The A's wouldn't stop there, adding another run thanks again to Billy Burns. Burns BABIP'd a single to center, moved to second on Phegley's groundout, stole third while taking advantage of Hector Santiago's aloofness, and took home on a groundball to first baseman Albert Pujols. Burns showed proper instincts for the first time in maybe ever and that's a run that probably doesn't score unless it's Billy Burns. The dude can be special and tonight, even if only one game, was an encouraging sign.
Burns' run put the A's up 3-1 after three.
Semien blast part II
Blasting off twice in one night isn't easy to do, but the A's young shortstop has the power to do it. In the seventh, Semien launched a ball into the left field bleachers for his second homerun of the night and the A's fourth run of the game. The dude has the power to be very, very good and I love watching him swing the bat when he's right.
I haven't said it before, but I'll say it now. Semien has the PERFECT approach!
Marcus Semien is on !!! pic.twitter.com/zZeKMQZp62— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) April 13, 2016
It usually isn't hard to guess which Graveman you're getting. Tonight, a quick 1-2-3 first signaled that we were in for a treat. As mentioned above, the second wasn't so smooth and did work on Graveman's important pitch count, but he recovered nicely to finish the day with 6 innings pitched, just the one run (which could have been prevented with better defense but I digress), three k's and nine groundballs. He threw 98 pitches, 61 of which were strikes and it was a beautiful outing.
He used all of his pitches which helped keep the Angels off balance and honestly, Graveman probably could have pitched better. That's pretty cool. There's part of me that wants to see the A's push Graveman who seems to be capped at six innings pitched, but I won't complain when the results are like they are.
There are times when I watch Kendall Graveman pitch and I think, how in the world can anyone hit this. When he's on, he's better than the number 5 people think he is, or even the number 3 that's probably a realistic ceiling. He's got so much movement he can be deadly. He's unlikely to be consistent enough to put together extended periods of unhittable ways, but you can do much, much worse than Graveman as your fifth starter.
The Angels put two on the board in the 8th
After a clean 7th, the Angels mustered two runs to make it a 4-3 game in the 8th against Ryan Madson. With one out, Yunel Escobar and Daniel Nava singled, bringing up the heart of the Angels order. Madson was able to induce a strikeout from Mike Trout but was unable to put away Pujols in a tough at bat. Pujols lined a soft double into the leftfield corner, plating both Esboar and Nava.
There was a little bit of bad luck tied in to the back to back singles, but Madson's performance is mostly defined by a Prior to tonight and even in a bad performance Madson is a joy to watch, but that was a very bad pitch to a very dangerous hitter, one the A's surely would like back.
The fateful ninth
Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out, but did nothing of the sort. With one out, he walked caveman C.J. Cron, bringing the winning run to the plate. Geovany Soto was that winning run, and he crushed an 0-1 mistake over the left centerfield wall to put the Angels on top 5-4.
It was an utterly terrible pitch by Doo in an awful overall performance. The pitch was a major mistake to location and until Doo is able to hit his spots, these things are going to happen. He has the stuff still to be a very good reliever but unless he can command the ball, he will struggle.
We need a special section for a tremendous, 2012 esque play by Josh Reddick, especially after such a brutal loss. Love watching that man be one of the smartest baseball players on the field.
Where are the runs?
It's easy to blame this loss on the bullpen, but when you rely on them so heavily like the early season 2016 A's have these losses are going to happen.
The question to me is, where are the runs? This team isn't going to score bunches of runs or hit dingers like they're the Blue Jays, but they're not going to hit like 9 Elvis Andrus impersonators all season either. When will they turn the corner?
Tonight, they had plenty of chances to score more than the 4 total runs they put up, and those runs were largely accounted for by two people. Rallies were killed by double plays and at bats were finished thanks to poor swings at poor pitches.
At some point that will change, but when will that be? We're waiting.