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Game #85: At least we can look forward to trades

The A’s suffered a complete game shutout at the hands of Ervin Santana and drop the series to the Twins.

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins
Certified A’s killer
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

"To be, in a word, unborable.... It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish."

-David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

This game was a test of our limits as baseball fans. The A's were shut out by Ervin Santana (who has a long track record of destroying us), managing only 2 hits all day, and Sonny Gray was once again mediocre. Remember, everyone: madness is the unmaking of the self.

A's Offense Anemic

Burns and his majestic 46 wRC+ started the game with an infield pop-out, something we've been seeing WAY too much of this season from him, and that pretty much set the tone for the A's offense for the day. Ervin Santana got through the 1st inning on 9 pitches with 2 pop outs - it took less than 5 minutes.

Things continued like this. We got an Alonso first pitch groundout, another Billy Burns popout, some strikeouts and weak flyouts, and before we knew it we were through 4 innings with no baserunners.

Unlikely hero Billy Butler finally came through with Oakland's first hit of the game, a 2-out stand up double in the 5th inning. Yonder Alonso came up to bat next and was inexplicably given the green light to swing on a 3-0 count, so he predictably hit a weak fly ball to end the inning. It was the first time two consecutive Oakland batters had a 3-ball count all day, so of course we squandered it by letting a hitter with nonexistent power try to get aggressive.

Rather than suffer through more stranded baserunners, the A's decided to go back to just not having anyone get on base period. The 6th and 7th innings flew by with no more action. Batter after batter bit on pitcher's-pitch sliders and the entire team refused to adjust their approach when this obviously wasn't working.

Vogt got our second hit of the game in the 8th inning with a single, but a patented Butler double play and an Alonso 4-pitch strikeout put that inning to rest quickly.

I would say our hitting approach was poor, but that would imply there was an approach at all beyond "swing at literally any pitch that comes in your general direction." As was pointed out in the game thread, there were 3 batters in our lineup who, combined, still have below-average offensive output by wRC+.

Sonny Gray Inefficient

Sonny's last win was APRIL 22nd. Oh my God. He took the field with a literal black eye and threatened to take the black eye into the realm of metaphor immediately, giving up a hit and a walk in the first inning, but was able to wriggle out of trouble with a couple of key strikeouts. That wriggling is something we got used to quickly, because Sonny would not have a single 3-up, 3-down inning all day.

To make a long story short: Gray had good life on his pitches but was struggling immensely with control. His total inability to control his offspeed pitches meant his fastball got punished consistently.

He loaded the bases in the 3rd inning on a double and two walks, and while he ultimately shut the Twins down that time, he had thrown 76 pitches through 3 innings and was poised for yet another disappointing start.

Sonny's best inning was the 4th, when he got 3 groundouts and gave up only 1 single on a groundball that was 100% vintage Pasta Lowrie.

Unfortunately his groundball ways didn't last long. He opened up the 5th inning with a 4-pitch walk, then a double to Joe Mauer to drive in the runner and put the Twins up 1-0. Mauer's double could and should have been cut off by Burns, but our center fielder isn't content with just being bad at the plate: apparently it has to leak into every aspect of his game.
Sonny somehow stuck it out and completed the 6th inning despite his elevated pitch count. He gave up another double but no further damage and exited the game having pitched 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, 4 walks and 1 run vs. 5 strikeouts. This is probably one of those cases where the stat line actually looks better than the real performance - Sonny was in trouble for a majority of the game and was surviving by the skin of his teeth. It took him a whopping 113 pitches to get through 6 innings and only 66 of those were strikes.

Rzepczynski came in for the 7th and immediately gave up a leadoff walk and a single to put runners on the corners with 0 outs. Ready to wave the white flag, Melvin sent in John Axford, who gave up a single, walk and sac fly to put the Twins up 3-0. He couldn't finish the inning either, so rookie Patrick Schuster followed up his major league debut last night by getting the final out to mercifully end the 7th.

Then we remembered it's only his 2nd day in the big leagues. In the 8th inning, Schuster gave up a triple and a sac fly to put the Twins up 4-0. He gave up another single but nothing more for the Twins.

Could we at least get some trades to get excited about?