The shine of opening day has already worn off and it appears A's baseball is in midseason form. From the Tuesday night crowd of just over 10,000 to the A's losing a one-run game, it feels like we're in the middle of June. The A's dropped game number two of the 2016 campaign thanks to some White Sox dingers, some shoddy infield defense, and an offense that just couldn't do enough.
A great start to Bassitt's start
Chris Bassitt looked absolutely incredible for the first four innings. For those frames, Bassitt worked down in the zone, hit his spots, and kept the Sox off balance with his deep arsenal. His stuff is so good that it really comes down to keeping the ball in the zone and early on, he did that beautifully. If he can do that consistently, his ceiling is sky high.
The A's strike first
Let's start by saying Jose Quintana is really, really good. Highly underrated and probably in the same neighborhood as Sonny Gray in terms of value. Seriously, that good.
The bats were quiet through the first two frames, being sent down in order. Lowlights include Khris Davis's fourth K in five at bats and a brutal Yonder Alonso called third strike.
The A's came to life in the bottom of the third. Josh Phegley started the inning with a slow groundball through a shift created hole in the right side of the infield for a single. Yonder Alonso followed with his strikeout looking, but Semien redeemed him by scorching a single to left center, moving Phegley to third. With one out and runners on first and third, Coco Crisp struck out in a brutal at bat, swinging at balls four and five out of the zone. Ever the professional, Jed Lowrie picked up Coco with an RBI single up the middle and the A's were up 1-0.
It all comes crashing down for Bassitt
Through four, Bassitt was nearly flawless. In the fifth, he wasn't bad either but the results were just terrible. Like many a disastrous A's inning, this one started innocuously enough. With one out, Adam Eaton singled to right. Jimmy Rollins followed with a groundball to Lowrie at second who foolishly tried to nab the lead runner Eaton instead of taking the sure out at first. Eaton beat the throw and instead of a runner on second with two outs, there were runners on first and second with only one out. Bassitt followed with a strikeout of Jose Abreu for the second out of the inning. Unfortunately, Bassitt couldn't finish the job as Todd Frazier muscled an 0-2 curveball out for a homerun to left, putting the Sox up 3-1.
If the A's were a tree, their fruit would be defensive misplays and it appears we are in for an excellent harvest. This team just isn't good enough to give away outs and runs like they have thus far in 2016 and the hopes of October baseball hinge on the defenses ability to think. It's frustrating but it's early, but at the same time there's little time for error. It's time to sharpen up. Frazier's dinger is at least in part due to Jed's misplay and it's easy to see this ending as a win if Jed makes the right decision.
The A's strike back
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth, the same A's who orchestrated the third created a run in the fifth. Phegley started off with a scorching double, moved to third on Coco Crisp's flyball to right, and was brought home by RBI machine Jed Lowrie's single to right. Nothing too special, but a nice example of the depth of this lineup. 3-2, Sox.
But the Sox add another
In the top of the sixth, the Sox scored their fourth run while simultaneously chasing Chris Bassitt. With runners on first and third Austin Jackson hit a weak groundball in the hole at short, past the slow moving Valencia and into Semien's glove. Semien made a nice pick and throw, but it was far too late to get Jackson and at any rate, the run would have scored even if he did nab the Sox centerfielder. Jackson's weak single extended the Sox lead to 4-2.
Liam Hendriks would get the A's out of the jam, inducing a clutch double play ball off the bat of Jimmy Rollins in what was a sterling, bullpen saving 2.2 inning performance. Get excited about having Hendriks for a long period of time.
Hit it out Yonder, Alonso
I'm an optimist but even I must concede, I had 2015 kinda feelings come the eighth. The A's made decent contact throughout the day but had little to show for it, and it felt like one of those days where it just wasn't meant to be. But the A's fought against a tough bullpen and their work was rewarded.
Josh Reddick led off with a groundball to deep short, good for an infield hit. With one out, Khris Davis was hit by a pitch and with two outs, IVI Stephen Vogt was also hit by a pitch, loading the bags for Yonder Alonso. Alonso hit a hanging slider for a two run single, and just like that the A's were tied up at four. The offense hasn't been stellar these first two games, but the eighth was another example of their depth which can hopefully create more runs as the season wears on.
The bullpen does 2015 things
Maybe those 2015 feelings were right. In the top of the ninth in a tie game, Bob Melvin called on Sean Doolittle to hold the tie. Doo did no such thing as Jimmy Rollins hit a fat fastball over the leftfield wall for the game winning run.
Doo looked great last night and even tonight, he garnered swings and misses at an impressive rate. But without his old velocity, he just can't miss spots like he did to Rollins. Doolittle still can be elite, but it won't be as simple as it was before.
The A's went down in order in the ninth and what looked like a potential comeback win turned into another excruciating one-run loss. It might be easy to blame Doo and in extension the pen, but all told they were phenomenal for the second straight night.
The Sox broadcast was just terrible
In the second inning of game number two of the season, Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone mulled over how Sonny Gray is wasted on a non-contending team. This comes from a team that won 76 games last year, a team that nearly imploded after a 14 year old was DFAd from their clubhouse, and a team that employs Chris Sale to not play in October. There are times where I wish Glenn had a bit more personality but listening to a broadcast like this will make you realize how lucky we are to have any semblance of objectivity in our booth. Hawk is essentially a random Twitter user with a slight twang and a microphone, and he makes me appreciate what we have. Also, I heard two or three texts go off on the broadcast. Nice.
Also terrible was the matter this game was broadcast. For one, there's no alternate broadcast available, to my knowledge. The game was on radio, but in a world where I can order dinner from bed, there's no proper method to overlay Ken Korach and Vince Controneo over the Sox horrendous commentary.
More importantly, the game was blocked at the start in favor of the Pittsburgh-Cardinals game due to MLBs weird, non-nonsensical rules. How do we feel about that?
Yet again, the loss can in part be blamed on shoddy infield defense. It's another one-run loss, and those are particularly painful because it's obvious the A's aren't far from having the opposite record.
But there are positives, too. If the A's don't make defensive miscues, they're probably 2-0 and feeling pretty good. The team has hung tough against two excellent pitchers and most importantly, Sonny Gray is pitching tomorrow. Hang in there, A's fans.