When I tell people I love baseball and they reply with something along the lines of "Baseball is boring!" I tend to get pretty defensive. A well-played baseball game is a game of cat-and-mouse and a finely choreographed ballet all in one. There are few things more exciting than watching an at-bat between a great hitter and a great pitcher. And then there are games like today, which remind me that baseball can, in fact, be quite boring, and that there are few things less exciting than watching mediocre hitting against mediocre pitching.
Things got off to a quick start with Eric Surkamp pitching. Yunel Escobar DRILLED the second pitch of the game to left field, missing a home run by maybe one foot. Gentry flew out to Reddick, but Reddick held Escobar at 2nd with his cannon arm - Escobar knew he had no chance to take 3rd, and indeed, Reddick's throw to hold him was perfect. It's really good to see Reddick's arm back in tip-top shape. Trout hit another routine flyout to Reddick, then Pujols took 3 balls before being intentionally walked. With runners on 1st and 2nd and 2 outs, Surkamp got ahead in the count against the ice cold CJ Cron before hitting him in the knee with a bad breaking ball. It's extremely frustrating to see Cron reach base on a pitcher's mistake for the second game in a row. Fortunately, Surkamp induced a 1st pitch popout by Kole Calhoun to escape the bases-loaded jam.
The A's went down quietly in the 1st, with Billy Burns grounding out and Crisp and Reddick going down on strikes.
Surkamp got two outs in the air to start the 2nd inning before giving back-to-back walks to Giavotella and Escobar. Again, though, he was able to escape the jam, this time by getting Craig Gentry to ground out with help from some good defense by Chris Coghlan at 2nd base. Things were already starting to look dire, as Surkamp had thrown 46 pitches through 2 innings, logged 0 strikeouts, and allowed 4 unnecessary baserunners.
Vogt put up a valiant battle to start the 2nd inning, but ultimately struck out on 11 pitches. Fortunately, Danny Valencia followed up with the A's' first hit of the afternoon (he would ultimately hit 2 of 3) on a hard single to center field, giving him a 6-game hit streak. Chris Coghlan did his best to immediately kill the momentum by hitting a soft groundball to 2nd, but he was able to just beat the throw at 1st to make it a force out at 2nd instead of yet another GIDP. Speaking of GIDPs, Billy Butler was next to bat, but since the A's already had 2 outs, he decided that instead of hitting a soft grounder to 3rd that he would be patient and take what feels like the team's first walk of the year. Alonso actually put together a good at-bat, getting ahead in the count and launching a ball to deep left field, but it wasn't deep enough to avoid the 3rd out of the inning.
Mike Trout singled to start off the 3rd and promptly stole 2nd base, but Surkamp got a clutch strikeout against Albert Pujols. CJ Cron flew out for out #2 but Surkamp couldn't finish the inning cleanly, giving up a soft line drive by Calhoun to score Trout. Simmons grounded out to end the inning, but the Angels had taken a 1-0 lead and Surkamp had thrown 70 pitches through only 3 innings.
The bottom of the 3rd looked like another 1-2-3 inning with Semien and Burns going down quickly, but Coco Crisp reached 1st on an error by CJ Cron. Coco successfully stole 2nd on the 2-0 pitch to Reddick, but on 3-0, Reddick hit a line drive to Kole Calhoun for the final out.
The 4th went quickly for both teams.
Semien made a great play in the top of the 5th to get Gentry, the type of rushed throw that he probably would have thrown into the seats last year. But remember, this is Semien 2.0, and he rocks on offense and defense. Trout promptly reminded us that everything is still terrible with a massive double that quickly got him to 3rd on a wild pitch by Surkamp. Surkamp again came through against Pujols, inducing a pop-up to shallow right field that Reddick made an excellent play on. However, he then gave up ANOTHER walk to the 2-for-27 CJ Cron, meaning Cron had reached base three times in two games despite batting well under .100. And of course, Kole Calhoun followed up with an RBI single to bring the score to 2-0. Ryan Dull came in and quickly got the 3rd out to end the threat, maintaining his track record of excellence so far this season.
Marcus Semien took a walk on a full count in the bottom of the 5th, which is always encouraging for this team, but nothing else good happened. Alonso made solid contact again, but the ball went right to Trout.
Dull was dominant yet again in the top of the 6th, putting up a 1-2-3 inning. The A's hitters, not to be outdone, also made quick outs in the bottom of the inning to keep Shoemaker's 1-hitter alive.
Fernando Rodriguez kept the 1-2-3 streak alive with a 7-pitch 7th inning through the heart of the Angels order, including a Trout strikeout.
Rookie pitcher Greg Mahle came out to pitch the 7th. Kole Calhoun showed off his Gold Glove by making a phenomenal play to get Lowrie out on a ball that would have fallen well-foul. Billy Butler struck out looking on an extremely questionable call and somehow, inexplicably, the colder-than-absolute-zero Yonder Alonso came in to hit against a leftie. Canha hasn't hit lefties well in his time with Oakland, but I would take a Canha at-bat in a heartbeat versus throwing Alonso out there. Predictably, Alonso grounded out softly and Mahle completed the inning with just a handful of pitches.
Rodriguez finally put away the deadly CJ Cron to start the 8th, only to give up a double to Calhoun for his third hit of the day. Simmons hit a single to center field which Billy Burns bobbled to ensure Calhoun would score, bringing the score to 3-0. Rodriguez pitched the rest of the inning cleanly, limiting the damage to one run.
Marcus Semien decided in the 8th inning that it was time, yet again, to put the team on his back, and launched a home run to left field for his third homer in less than 24 hours. Semien is currently tied for the lead in home runs in the AL and has had 2 each off lefties and righties. Despite the overall terribleness of the game (and indeed, this entire series against the Angels), watching Semien display the elite power and cromulent defense that could make him a top-tier shortstop has been exciting.
Liam Hendriks came out to pitch the 9th, which should have been the signal this game was over. Craig Gentry reached 1st safely on a bang-bang play by Marcus Semien that was *this* close to getting the speedy runner. Trout singled after getting an extremely generous call on what should have been strike 3 - the kind of called ball that pretty much only happens to Mike Trout. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Of course, the A's must be thoroughly and immediately punished anytime a mistake is made, and Pujols tapped a ball up the middle that got past the drawn-in infielders to score both runners. Hendriks then gave up a bloop single to the somehow-always-on-base CJ Cron before thankfully getting yanked. Rzepczynski came in to record a strikeout and groundout to finally put the Angels down. Liam Hendriks has looked like a grade-A gascan thus far, but it's only been a few appearances and he has admittedly had abysmal BABIP luck. He is officially the first reliever of the season to make me nervous when he comes out, but I'm willing to chalk some of that up to bad luck.
The A's failed to come back in the 9th. Valencia singled for the A's' third and final hit of the day, but nothing else would happen. Billy Butler got thrown out at first for the final out on a play where I would have thought literally any human being with two functioning legs would be safe.
This was an ugly game by the A's and there really isn't any way to sugarcoat it. Eric Surkamp performed exactly how you would expect him to (not well) and the offense continued to look lost at the plate. Semien's homer was the one bright spot on the day. Hopefully this will be the last Surkamp start of the year and our batters will start to figure things out ASAP, because we've been making utterly mediocre pitchers look like Clayton Kershaw.