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Game #65: A Tale of Two Sonnys

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How quickly things can change. A's fall 7-5.

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics
How quickly things can change
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

It all started so promisingly - where did the game go? We’ll start with the good and work into the bad.

A’s put runs up early

The A’s started off slowly, going 6 up, 6 down through the first two innings. They did a good job of working the count against Holland but couldn’t produce any hits initially.

Marcus Semien opened up the 3rd with a long at-bat and eventually drilled a well-thrown sinker into center field for a single. Smolinski followed up with a great at-bat of his own and blasted a mistake pitch to left field to make the score 2-0 Oakland. Smolinski has been white-hot the last several days in a way that’s oddly reminiscent of his first month or so with the club last year, when it felt like he was pretty much single-handedly carrying the team on offense. With one out, Burns poked a pitch outside perfectly down the right field line for a double and then stole 3rd on an errant pickoff throw. Lowrie walked to put runners on the corners and then Valencia hit a seeing-eye chopper through the left side to bring Burns home, 3-0 A’s. Neither Davis nor Butler could drive in the remaining runners on base to blow the game wide open, but the A’s nearly batted through the order and put Holland at 70 pitches through only 3 innings.

The A’s worked a couple more walks in the 4th and Derek Holland’s night ended after 3 2/3 innings with 92 pitches thrown. With 2 outs, Nick Martinez came out of Texas’s bullpen to face Burns. Burns scooped the first pitch he saw into center field, which Desmond then flubbed to allow both runners to score and make the score 5-0 Oakland.

It was incredibly rewarding to see the A’s do to another team what has befallen them all year - starting pitcher getting knocked out early, walks coming back to bite, and defensive errors compounding pitching woes. It sucks when it’s your team but oh is it sweet when it’s going the other way.

Butler continues to put up good at-bats, this time in the 5th against rightie Nick Martinez. He doubled to the gap, though the A’s would fail to score him.

The A’s failed to respond after the Rangers put up their crooked number in the 6th. One single through the final four innings and nothing more. Another Alonso first-pitch groundout to go with his two strikeouts on the day - yeesh. You're supposed to win most games where you score 5 runs, so this one isn’t on the offense.

Old school Sonny through 5

Sonny overall looked great through the first five innings. He gave up some hard contact here and there, but kept the ball on the ground and limited the Rangers to only singles through five frames. He was pounding the bottom of the zone and his fastball was showing horizontal movement we haven’t seen since last year.

Sonny threw a beautiful slider to strike out Choo for the first out of the game. The first hit of the game came on the next batter, when Valencia clanked a sharply hit ball up the line and appeared to be in some mild pain afterwards. Sonny showed some hustle to turn a botched double play ball by Alonso into an out at first and then ended the inning with another groundball.

Sonny had a 1-2-3 second inning featuring a couple more groundouts. He was giving up hard-ish contact but seemed to have a good feel for his pitches and was keeping the ball down.

Sonny gave up a couple more singles in the 3rd, but a lucky bounce off his glove to Semien produced a double play and Sonny escaped the inning unscathed.

Two quick outs opened the 4th before Profar worked a looooong at-bat and eventually drew a walk. It didn’t come back to bite though (other than raising Sonny’s pitch count) as Profar got picked off after an indecisive jump on a ball in the dirt - Sonny’s occasional wildness worked in our favor! As, of course, did Phegley’s cannon arm.

For the second inning in a row, Sonny came out in the 5th after a great deal of downtime (Holland works glacially slow with runners on base), but it didn’t seem to hurt him. He struck out Odor and got a couple more groundballs for another 3-up, 3-down inning. The second out featured a fantastic play by Semien, where he had to charge a slow grounder and make an extremely fast throw to beat out Elvis Andrus by inches. His footwork has been clean and his arm looks better by the day - Semien is just a joy to watch and someone I hope to see with the A’s for years to come.

Everything turns to ash

Things unraveled completely for Sonny in the 6th inning. He gave up a home run on a hanging curveball to open the inning, then back-to-back doubles to make the score 5-2 Oakland. A Prince Fielder sac fly made it 5-3, then a single and another home run, this time by Odor, tied the game at 5-5. Sonny finished the inning but oh boy, it was remarkable how quickly things fell apart.

Seemingly every pitch Sonny threw in the 6th was out over the plate, belt-high, and the Rangers made him pay big-time. Horrifying fact: Sonny has given up 5+ runs in an inning 3 times this season, having never done it prior to 2016.

John Axford came out to pitch the 7th inning. Apparently Robinson Chirinos really likes the Coliseum, because after having only 1 home run all year, he hit his second of the day and third of the series to put the Rangers up 6-5. Axford got another out and then Doolittle came out to strike Mazara out and end the inning.

For the second time of the night, Odor hit a home run with 2 outs. It was in the top of the 8th off Sean Doolittle to put the Rangers up 7-5. It was admittedly impressive - he chopped a high fastball perfectly out to right field.

Madson gave up a walk but nothing else in the 9th, but it would prove irrelevant. The A’s failed to get anything going in the bottom of the 9th and the final score remained 7-5.

This game was a punch in the gut. That 6th inning came out of nowhere and it was incredibly disheartening to see Sonny slip back into mediocrity after seemingly having got back to form. Oh well. The A’s are back for the series finale tomorrow at 12:35.