In front of a crowd of 14 people, 15 if you count Dave from Dublin who left in the bottom of the seventh due to an early work meeting tomorrow, Kendall Graveman and the A's handled the Houston Astros by a score of 7-4, continuing an excellent stretch of enjoyable baseball. Dance if you're feeling a second half run!
The Astros strike first
In the second, the Astros jumped out to a 1-0 lead. Luis Valbuena led off with a triple to center on a well struck ball, undoubtedly knocked down by Oakland's best defender, the marine layer. Coco Crisp gave a patented Coco Crisp effort, sacrificing his body in an effort to help the team, but fell just short of a highlight reel catch. Khris Davis, backing up admirably on the play, grabbed the ball and floated a changeup back towards the infield, but was far too late to catch Valbuena, a fine runner. If either of Crisp or Davis has an arm, it's probably a double, but that's not the case.
Colby Rasmus followed with a sac fly to shallow center, the shallowest sac fly you'll ever see. Just as quickly as Coco floated through the nostalgia vein, straight to our hearts with his incredible diving effort on Valbuena's triple, he reminded us why a centerfielder is on top of our current wishlist. Valbuena scored easily on Coco's lawn dart, a throw home that landed closer to his foot than the plate.
As Nico has pointed out many a time, the A's need to get creative with their cutoff men. Luis Valbuena wouldn't have even considered running on an average outfield arm, and you have a better chance at cutting the runner down if you have Marcus Semien standing next to Coco, ready to take the ball and fire home.
The A's strike back
For two and a half months, a single run was a pipe-dream. For the past few weeks, the A's have seemed to pick up their pitcher's, night in and night out. In the bottom of the second, the A's scored a run to even the score at 1-1.
Marcus Semien singled with two outs, and Yonder Alonso, hot as a second half, early 2000's Athletics team, doubled to deep left. A blazing fast Semien scored on a bobble by cutoff man Carlos Correa, and the score was tied.
CB Bucknor still terrible, baseball still weird, replay still annoying
In the top of the fourth, the Astros scored an unearned run to take a 2-1 lead.
With one out, Carlos Correa doubled off the right field wall. Luis Valbuena would walk to follow, but things looked up briefly, as Graveman struck out Colby Rasmus for the second out of the frame. Carlos Gomez, nearly as annoying as Erik Aybar, grounded a ball weakly to third. It was too slowly hit for Ryon Healy to make a play, although he did do a remarkable job of fielding the ball with his bare hand. However, his throw to first was not only late but also short, skipping away from Yonder Alonso and allowing Correa to score on the E-5.
It's an annoying run for roughly infinity reasons, but let's break down the top four:
1. Gomez's nubber was technically a hit, even though it was struck like a pretty decent bunt.
2. Carlos Correa definitely interfered at third-base, getting in Healy's way. Should Healy run through Correa to field the ball, the inning is over and the run doesn't score. Instead, because Healy apparently isn't a massive dick, it's a run. Ok, baseball.
3. The play wasn't interference, a questionable but defend-able call. But of course it was CB Bucknor at third base. If it was any other umpire, with the exception of maybe Angle Hernandez, I'd probably shrug it off and say, baseball. Instead, I have to be tremendously annoyed that Bucknor yet again failed to make a call that helped my team. C.B. definitely stands for Certifiably Blind.
4. Instant replay was probably invented thanks to C.B. Bucknor, yet it can't be used in the case of runner's interference because of course it can't. If you want the actual reason why it wasn't review-able, here you go.
Are you reading this? I hope you're not reading this. We, the people who came up with this replay stuff, didn't really put much thought into it. Sorry!
The A's offense, there for you again
You could conceivably blame both of the Astros first two runs on the defense. The first wasn't purely error based, but the second was, and a good fielding team prevents both.
Like a self-aware significant other, the A's made up for their deficiencies in other ways, namely by scoring runs. In the fourth, the A's again deprived Mike Fiers of a shutdown inning again in a big way. With two outs, Stephen Vogt doubled to deep left, continuing to prove he is an All-Star and an excellent hitter. Marcus Semien worked an excellent walk to follow, fouling off pitch after pitch, working his way to first base. He would steal second, a huge 90 feet that turned into a run when Yonder Alonso grounded a ball up the middle, through a hole in the shift, for a two RBI base knock. The score stood 3-2 in favor of the good guys.
Next up was the rookie, Ryon Healy, who launched a double to deep right centerfield, showing an excellent ability to go the other way that was absent in his first few games. That scored the A's fourth run and brought Coco Crisp to the plate. Coco would walk, ending Mike Fiers night and bringing in flamethrower MIchael Feliz. Feliz proceeded to walk Jed Lowrie to load the bases, then walked Josh Reddick and Danny Valencia back to back to plate two more runs and make the score 6-2.
All told, it was a five run inning in which the Astros walked five A's. The A's batted around and Khris Davis made two outs, and that's just fine.
Mike Fiers, probably a bad choice for a wedding date
After being pulled, Mike Fiers went all Drew Pomeranz on something in the dugout. I don't have any particular feelings on Mike Fiers, other than confusion at the man's beard hair to head hair ratio, but the schadenfreude still feels so good.
We're fresh out of shut down innings
With two outs in the fifth, Marwin Gonzalez hit a dinger into the rightfield bleachers, cutting the lead to 6-3. Meh.
Khris Davis's daily dinger!
It wouldn't be an A's game without Khris Davis hitting a casual flyball that reaches the bleachers. This one ended up in right field, Davis's fourth homer in four games since the break ended. The man is baseball fun.
Ryan Dull gives up a run
Dull is about 16 years old, a time in life when experimenting is the norm. Tonight, Dull experimented with giving up a run, doing so in about nine seconds thanks to a Jose Altuve single and a Carlos Correa double. Fortunately for us, Dull didn't like it, quickly striking out a pair to get out of the inning. Three cheers for Ryan Dull for choosing to give up a run at a perfectly acceptable time!
On Kendall Graveman
Graveman has not so quietly been an excellent pitcher after a tumultuous start. He was fine again tonight, better than his final line will indicate. Yet again, he relied on just his sinker and cutter, riding those two pitches to a seven inning, seven hit, three run, two of which were earned, five strikeout, one walk performance. His 11 groundball outs are exactly the result you look for in a Graveman performance and early in the game, Graveman was pumping fastballs in the hardest he's ever done, at one pointing touching 97 MPH.
As you already know, it's an even better night if the A's play any sort of defense. Graveman wasted numerous pitches following errors and a better defense wouldn't allow the first two runs of the night to score. It very easily could have been an eight inning, one run performance. But we can easily live with the result in hand.
Unfortunately, bad defense is a reality for the A's, at least for this year. You can never predict what will happen in an Athletics offseason, but Oakland doesn't look like the ideal home for a groundball pitcher anytime soon.
Some other thoughts:
-Ryon healy looked like a stud again. His double to right was a great job of hitting and earlier in the game, he hit a ball to the track in center. Were it a day game, it would have been gone but alas, the marine layer kept it in the yard. Defensively, Healy did have an error on a play that probably just wasn't make-able. He'll learn to eat that ball or mow over Correa in the future, and it's not a big concern. Later in the game, he made a phenomenal diving stop to end an inning and save the A's a run.
-Yonder Alonso is hot, hot, hot, and I'm not just referring to that dance move above. If the dude can continue to hit like has the past few months, and that's not an unreasonable request, he could be a very fine player. We can't ignore those first few months, but he certainly has the tools to be a player you want on your team.
The A's continued their excellent little stretch of baseball. A great second half would really make you reconsider how you feel about this team and organization, and the A's are off to a good start. Let's get win the series tomorrow!