The A's did everything right tonight, getting within an out of victory before Ryan Madson gently placed the ball on a tee for Adrian Beltre to deposit into the left-field seats, winning the game for the Rangers by a count of 7-6. It's a game the A's could have and should have won, but didn't. Sean Doolittle, please come back.
An auspicious start
If you were to anthropomorphize the A's struggles against bad left handed pitchers, the result would be Martin Perez. His ERA is well over 4, he leads the league in walks, and he's exactly the kind of guy that'll make you gouge your eyes out thanks to repeated flat fastballs destroying our beloved A's.
Every start against one of these typically sub-par lefties induces stress, a constant worry that we'll be on the wrong end of the saddest perfect game in baseball history. Tonight, the A's quelled that worry quickly, though it did take some help from the Rangers.
Jed Lowrie led off with a single, but was quickly erased by a Jake Smolinski GIDP. Josh Reddick then strode to the plate, working the count before eventually grounding awkwardly to short. Always the hustler, on and off the field, Reddick busted it down the first base line, putting pressure on Elvis Andrus who threw the ball wide of first, allowing Reddick to reach on the error and keeping the inning going. Danny Valencia then came up, hitting a first pitch fastball over the centerfield fence and plastering the A's to a 2-0 lead.
If you ask me, the Rangers should trade Nomar Mazara for a good hitting first-baseman. They could really use one.
Ian Desmond, potential MVP
The move of the offseason was certainly the Rangers snagging Ian Desmond at the going rate of a not very good reliever. If it weren't for a division rival, it'd be a nice story of redemption for a guy who bet on himself and paid dearly, at least for a while.
With two outs in the first, Desmond poked a dinger out to rightfield. I do mean poked, and while Desmond has great power, it's a ball that falls short of the warning track on a normal Oakland night.
It was part of a rocky start to Mengden's start. You get the feeling Mengden just can't survive anywhere but on the corners and to start the game, he was up and over the plate.
Oakland Athletics, doubles machine
In the third, the A's offense went back to work against noted bad pitcher, Martin Perez. Jed Lowrie led off with a double, moved to third on a groundball by Jake Smolinski, but was left there when Josh Reddick grounded out sharply to first. That left the job up to Danny Valencia who came through again, this time with a double to deep right. The doubles party kept rolling from there, as a Khris Davis double brought Valencia in to make the score 4-1, and a Billy Butler double brought Davis in to make the score 5-1.
If you ask me, the Rangers should trade Profar, Brinson, and more for a top starting pitcher. They could really use one.
Rangers tack on
In the fourth, the Rangers snagged another run, this one slightly luck induced. Adrian Beltre singled to left to start and moved to second on a walk with one out. Mitch Moreland would pop up to follow but with two outs, light hitting catcher Bobby Wilson doubled to left on a soft pop fly. That would plate Beltre and while it wasn't a perfect outcome, it's a pitch you can live with.
That'd be all she wrote for the fourth, as Mengden would escape the jam from there thanks to a strikeout of Delino DeShields.
Rangers tack on more
In the fifth, the Rangers snagged two more runs. Jurickson Profar singled on a slow groundball up the middle to leadoff and Nomar Mazara followed with a walk in a tough at bat. Ian Desmond would strikeout on a generous call and Adrian Beltre would groundout, but with two outs Rougned Odor singled to right, plating two runs. The score would stand 5-4.
Mengden would stay in to walk one more batter before departing, leaving with a not-so-pretty 4 2/3rd innings pitched with 4 earned runs line. His command wobbled all night and his stuff just wasn't good enough against a pretty good lineup. He has to live on the corners, and tonight he just didn't do that.
Gritty A's grit a run in the 7th
Matt McBride led off the 7th with a single to left center and on a heads-up hustle play, moved to second when left fielder Delino Deshields bobbled the ball. He'd move to third on a groundball by Smolinski which, without McBride's hustle, would have been a double play. Josh Reddick would drive him in with a dink to right, a lucky duck snort that would make you go Drew Pomeranz on a perfectly fine piece of furniture if it happened to you, but a hit you'll absolutely take when it goes your way. That would make the score 6-4, giving the A's an invaluable insurance run.
The value of hustle
At the end of the day, three of the A's runs were scored on nothing but hustle. There were some errors that deserve the assist in the scorebook, but they're not errors unless Matt McBride and Josh Reddick absolutely bust it like they did. That's not something that'll show up in the scorebook and it often time doesn't matter, but today it made the difference. And let's be real. This is the AL West. You've seen the A's play defense and you know what kind of outs can be turned into hits by the Jed Lowrie's of the world. For at least a night hustle remained supreme to the delight of youth baseball coaches everywhere. Good work, Matt and Josh!
BTW, Butler had four hits
Like a cockroach in a nuclear war, he just won't stay down....great work Billy! Joking aside, it's nice to see him hitting well, even if tonight took a bit of luck.
Nice hit by Billy. pic.twitter.com/w9TBC7LlsE— David Spiven (@oakfaninkc) July 26, 2016
After Mengden departed, Marc "I don't mind if we trade him cause I cannot learn how to spell his name" Rzepczynski got the A's out of the fifth without further damage. From there, good Liam Hendriks would pitch a scoreless sixth, looking ever so dominant. Jon Axford came in for the 7th and looked pretty dang good, but gave up a freak home run to noted freak home run hitter Adrian Beltre. It was a cutter away turned laser-beam into the righfield bleachers that made the score 6-5.
Ryan Dull took care of business in the 8th, giving up a long flyball but no real damage in yet another clean frame. He looked good on the mound in the late innings, and there's a good chance you'll see him there as the season wears on.
The fateful ninth
In the ninth it was Ryan Madson. With loins girded, orifices clenched, and wine bottles corked, Madson did what we all expected. With one out, Nomar Mazara snuck a hit in over Jed Lowrie and his concrete feet. Seriously, T-Mobile has better range than Jed fucking Lowrie. But Madson had a chance to get out unscathed, striking out Ian Desmond for the second out of the inning. That would bring Adrian Beltre to the plate, and, well, game over. 7-6 Rangers.
I'm still convinced Ryan Madson is a very good reliever. Some dudes can't handle the ninth and right now he's not fully right. Madson could use some innings in the seventh and eighth to find his groove. I'm still as pissed as you, but he's not a lost cause. Maybe just not a closer.
A frustrating loss
The playoffs are probably a pipe dream, even if Ryan Madson can control a baseball. He can't, and a fun little run just came to an abrupt and frustrating halt.