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Game #11: Middle-Inning Bullpen Terrific, Offense Horrific as A's Fall to Royals

Ho hum, another day, another loss. Hard to win a game when you have one player succeed on offense, and your starting pitcher throws 106 pitches in four innings.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday and Happy Jackie Robinson legacy day; the day where all the players wear 42 in April, giving a good challenge to announcers and fans just learning the team. But seriously, thanks, Jackie for the work your legacy has inspired, and for also being a darn good baseball player.

So here was the problem with tonight's game. Rich Hill can pitch, and he spun a pretty delightful curveball today and looked pretty good for flashes of time in tonight's game. If I told you he ended the day with 106 pitches, you'd probably peg his exit in the sixth, maybe seventh inning, right? FOUR AND A THIRD. That is the problem. It's a problem for him, for the bullpen's heavy use, and for the game, really, as he walked three and gave up a total of nine hits. His six strikeouts were nice, and they--and Fernando Rodriguez--are the only reasons he didn't give up piles more than three runs.  The middle-inning bullpen game was perfect tonight until, of course, Doolittle; the combination of Rodriguez, Rzepczynski and Dull kept the Royals off the board for four innings. Fun fact: Dull became the first A's pitcher since 1913 to start the season with seven consecutive hitless outings.

Even with the nine hits allowed, the walks seemed to be Hill's undoing today. With the exception of the ninth inning home run, all of the Royal's runs were facilitated by the walk, and the A's offense (aka "solo home run" and "infield hit") just doesn't have the firepower to overcome a less-than-perfect start.

Let's just say there are better starts to the game than walking the leadoff hitter, giving up a single to the next batter (only a great play by Semien kept the ball in the infield), allowing another looping hit to the outfield to bring in the first run for the Royals, all before an out was recorded. Hill turned the next play into two outs, sacrificing the second run for the outs, and just like that, the A's were down 2-0. But at least they got out of the first with say, just thirty pitches thrown and two runs scored.

Josh Reddick recorded the A's first hit--a double--in the first, but that's all the A's were able to muster. Rich Hill got into another jam in the second as he allowed a pair of two-out singles and a stolen base to put men on second and third, but he made a nifty play on a ball back to the mound to end the inning.

The A's would get on the board on a booming home run by Stephen Vogt, his first of the year, as he cut the deficit to 2-1 leading off the bottom of the second. The A's put two more men on base thanks to walks to Khris Davis and Marcus Semien, but Coco Crisp (look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!) grounded out to second in a virtual replay of his first at-bat to end the inning.

Walks continued to haunt Rich Hill as he again walked the leadoff hitter to open the third, and the Royals immediately brought him around to score.

The A's earned their share of the walks as well, as Reddick was gifted one in the third, but a double play by Valencia erased him and ended the inning. However, this was not the same A's team that played dead for the Angels; they just kept trying. Vogt hustled down the line to beat out an infield single to open the fourth, an inning that should have been more productive, but Escobar made a great play to prevent an infield single by Jed Lowrie. Instead of two on, no outs, the A's had a man on second with one out. Khris Davis singled in Vogt; credit Vogt for all-out effort in scoring on the play to cut the Royals' lead to 3-2.

Rich Hill started the fifth inning and got the first out, but allowed back-to-back singles before he was lifted for Fernando Rodriguez, who walked the bases loaded before spinning the inning-ending double-play; a gorgeous play started by Danny Valencia at third.

Crisp and Coghlan both had horrendous at-bats in the fifth, and again, the A's were denied. Rodriguez put two on in the sixth with two outs, but Rzepczynski struck out Hosmer to end the inning for him. The A's fell to the Royals' bullpen in the sixth and seventh; Coco Crisp did nothing for my disappointment of Billy Burns on the bench--he was a pretty ugly 0-5. I can't remember the last time he batted over .200. I still don't get it, and I think Billy Burns should be starting in center instead of being wasted on the bench. Although Coghlan right behind Coco also had a tough day of 0-4, same as Alonso and Valencia. Stephen Vogt with his 3-4, tried so hard to tie the game himself, but he received help from only Khris Davis.

Down 3-2, Doolittle entered the game in the ninth and promptly gave up a solo home run to Eric Hosmer, stretching the Royals' lead to 4-2. Doolittle has never allowed more than 5 home runs a season, and tonight, he allowed his third; in what is just the 11th game of the season.

The A's had no chance against Wade Davis; they went 1, 2, 3 to lose the first game of the series and their fourth consecutive loss. Sonny Gray will be starting the game tomorrow as the A's try to even the series. We'll see you back tomorrow, where parking is $40, the Warriors play a half an hour before the A's, and chaos will reign supreme on Hegenberger.