In a long game that at points delved into a fierce battle of ineptitude, the A's came out on top, trying this new thing called winning. It was an ugly affair, but I'll be damned if it wasn't an entertaining ballgame. Thanks to a decent outing by Sonny Gray, some poor defense by the Brewers, and clutch hitting by the Marcus Semien, the A's came out on top, 5-3.
A Sonny Start for Gray
It's been a strange and bumpy ride on the Ace train so far this year. Gray got off to the notably horrible start but has been better after his Disabled List stint. His last start was garbage, but he keeps showing signs of being the player we know and love. Tonight, he looked more like his 2015 self, garnering swings and misses on hard breaking balls, missing more than a few spots, but still having the raw stuff to put together a fine outing.
He gave up the first of two runs in the fourth. With two outs and a runner on first, Jonathan Lucroy knucklepucked a ball up the middle. The ball danced like a drunken fairy and though it was well within Marcus Semien's range, scooted through for a single. It's a very, very tough play that led to a run.
That put runners on first and third, bringing A's killer Kirk Nieuwenhuis to the plate. Sonny left a fastball over the plate that Nieuwenhuis crushed off the rightfield wall. It was a terrible job of pitching, and a good job of hitting that probably ends in a three run dinger if global warming is just a little more advanced. Instead, the marine layer and some fierce topspin kept the ball in the yard, resulting in a single run for the Brewers.
Again, it's a run that didn't need to happen if Semien makes a play or if Sonny bails him out. It's the kind of run that a bad team gives up: multiple chances to keep it from happening, but it still happens. But ultimately, it's a single run, something even the hapless A's can overcome. Right?
The A's tie it up
Prior to the A's half of the fifth, this was a thing.
The A's haven't advanced a runner past second base in their last 12 innings.— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) June 22, 2016
They'd gone 19 innings without scoring and 15 without putting a runner at third.
Max Muncy started the frame with a single and with one out, Jed Lowrie moved him to third with a single of his own. Stephen Vogt made a bid at an inning ending double play with a groundball to short, but the shift prevented Brewers' second-baseman Scooter Gennet from getting to the bag. That made for a simple 6-3 putout, scoring a slightly lucky run for the A's.
That'd be all the A's would muster off starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson. Jimmy Nelson is a great bully name, the guy who shoves the skinny protagonist into his locker whilst taking his lunch money. He's a decent pitcher too but like the 2016 season, the A's should have done better.
Sonny struggles in the top of the sixth
Last time out against the Rangers, Sonny fell apart in the sixth after a nice nice start to his outing. The sixth is usually a critical time for a starting pitcher, it's often the third time through the opposing lineup. Statistics show many pitchers fall off around this juncture, and it's a time that separates the good from the great.
Gray very well could have escaped the sixth unscathed tonight if it weren't for his own doing. Ryan Braun singled on a groundball to Jed Lowrie, the soft underbelly of the soft underbelly that is the A's defense. Braun would move to third on a throwing error by Sonny Gray on a pickoff attempt deep into the Coliseum abyss. Chris Carter lined a ball off the glove of Danny Valencia playing in at third, a ball that's surely caught in a normal defensive alignment. The score stood 2-1 Brewers, as Gray was unable to garner a shutdown inning in his final frame of the night.
Like many things A's, it was an avoidable run but credit where credit is due. Gray lowered his ERA by creating an unearned run, thus improving his value. You might think the glass is 9/10th's empty, I say it's 1/10th full.
The A's pick him up in the bottom
With Nelson's night finished, the Brew Crew turned to Blaine Boyer. Khris Davis led off with a single, moved to second on a passed ball, and to third on a Billy Butler's weak groundball to first. Yonder Alonso had a chance to bring Davis home with a runner on third and less than two outs. In a 1-0 count, Alonso put the worst 0-1 swing in baseball history on the ball, lightly tapping out to third baseman Aaron Hill.
Ah, but there's no quit in these A's. They wasted it all over the past two months! Marcus Semien bailed out Alonso with a single to right, scoring the run and tying the score at two. The A's would load the bases with a single and a walk but wouldn't score again in the inning, as Jed Lowrie flew out to center on ball four of his at bat.
A's threaten, trip over own shoes they tied together themselves, score three in seventh
Like Milwaukee's finest light beer, indistinguishable from water, bad baseball is an acquired taste.
Stephen Vogt led off the seventh with a shot to the wall that bounced out of the glove of centerfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, a catch-able ball turned triple. Danny Valencia followed with a groundball to short, misplayed by Jonathan Villar and turned into a single. Vogt would stay at third on the play, but no outs would be recorded.
Khris Davis would follow with a tailor made double play to second. Instead of taking a pair, Scooter Gennett threw home to catch Vogt in a rundown, leaving runners on first and second with one out. Billy Butler would strikeout looking to follow on a pitch unquestionably in the zone that Butler still managed to take offense to, and we were all left thinking, not again.
Not again indeed. Yonder Alonso would single to right on a first pitch fastball, plating Valencia and giving the A's a 3-2 lead. Marcus Semien, who had himself a dang ballgame, tripled on another not triple-turned-triple by Nieuwenhuis. This one was a line shot to left center, a clear single that Nieuwenhuis overran like he was wearing drunk goggles. Leftfielder Ryan Braun, another terrible defender, also overran the ball, allowing Davis and Alonso to score, putting the A's ahead 5-2.
The A's very well could have had a scoreless frame, but the Brewers would have none of it. We were on the right side of bad baseball for a change, and dammit, it was a fun.
A's giveth back
In the top of the eighth, enter John Axford. Two pitches, two doubles, and a run alter, exit John Axford. It wasn't so much a bad job of pitching as it was a stupid job of pitching. Maybe don't throw two get me over pitches to the heart of the Brewers order. Maybe.
Ryan Dull would bail out another pitcher again, stranding his 30th runner in his 30th chance this year. Ryan Dull is a beaut, and because of him, the score stood crept no closer than 5-3.
-Kirk Nieuwenhuis was evidently classmates with Billy Burns at the University of Weird Routes. If you gave Burns and Nieuwenhuis a happy meal maze to complete with a red crayon, they'd return you a paper airplane and a red smile with crayon in their teeth.
-Marcus Semien is 70 for 70 on games started. No one I'd rather see get a three hit, three RBI night than the A's shortstop
-A quick, clean outing in a save situation for Ryan Madson was a thing of beauty
A nice win for the green and gold. We'll see you tomorrow for the series finale. Let's go A's!