I really think that the A's going full rebuild is fun.
It's not as fun as winning baseball, obviously. Winning baseball is great and losing baseball is miserable. I get that. But at the same time, I really enjoy watching young guys trying to grow and become legitimate MLB players. I think it's really fun to watch people try to improve on the fly at the highest level of competition in the world.
At the very least, it's significantly better than the brand of boring baseball led by marginal veterans the A's have been playing for the past two years.
That's why I found this game pretty fun to watch. On the surface, today was one of those miserable, frustrating affairs when a team simply cannot scrounge up a hit with runners in scoring position. But the A's aren't trying to win, and I'm not tuning in at this point to watch a team that wins regularly. I'm tuning in to watch some youngsters play a more exciting brand of losing baseball than normal, and that's what I got today.
The A's are very bad, but there's at least more energy to the badness than usual. That's important.
Alcantara is pretty good
Raul Alcantara had a really, really, ridiculously bad MLB debut. He absolutely redeemed himself this afternoon with a solid effort backed up by the eyeball test.
Alcantara said that one of the reasons his debut was so bad was because he was consistently overthrowing. He made that adjustment, dropping his fastball down from 95-96 MPH in his debut to 92-93 MPH today. A velocity drop is usually a bad sign, obviously, but it turned out to be a major key. His control was better (he only hit one batter today!), the movement on his pitches was better, and he actually missed bats.
But Alcantara's big calling card is his excellent changeup, and that was on full display today. He ended the first inning by fanning Robinson Cano on a beautiful change for his first career strikeout. It continued to be his most consistent pitch throughout the game, and if he makes it as a major league starter, it'll be on the strength of that pitch.
Alcantara was still relatively hittable through his 5.2 innings, allowing 7 hits and working his way through jams constantly. The only damage came on a two-run Mike Zunino homer in the second inning, however. Despite the hittability, he showed remarkable poise by consistently making quality pitches when he was in trouble. Most young pitchers tend to collapse when things aren't going well, but Alcantara was pretty solid under pressure.
He left with a runner on third and two outs in the 6th inning, but Ryan Dull sealed the quality outing by inducing a pop-up.
We were all questioning whether Alcantara was a minor league mirage (dude put up a 1.18 ERA in AAA, that's serious business) or a legitimate MLB talent. The jury's still out, but the needle is leaning a bit more towards MLB talent after today.
The A's offense screws up every opportunity they get
The A's had a lot of opportunities to score runs today. This wasn't a classic "no-hitter until the 6th inning" specialty, they had their shots. Unfortunately the baby A's were completely unable to capitalize on anything.
Actually, I don't blame the A's offense. The A's are obviously being haunted by the ghost of Billy Butler, because they grounded into a double play at literally every key moment in the game. It even started on a foreboding note, as Jake Smolinski singled and was immediately erased by a Marcus Semien double play.
The offensive incompetence continued in the second inning, when James Paxton started to collapse. Davis, Healy, and Vogt hit consecutive singles to load the bases, and Paxton walked Brett Eibner on five pitches to score a run. Yonder Alonso managed to hit a deep sac fly to tie the game up at two, but that's all the A's would get from their bases loaded, no outs, struggling pitcher situation.
Because Chad Pinder grounded into a double play.
The A's got another opportunity in the seventh inning, when Brett Eibner demolished an Evan Scribner fastball and ended up with a triple. Alonso was intentionally walked, leaving runners on the corners with one out.
Joey Wendle hit into a double play.
Baseball is actually a bad sport, and nobody should watch it.
The Mariners finally took the lead in the 9th inning, mercifully avoiding extra innings. Ryan Madson has been good recently, but he allowed three consecutive hits to start off the inning, scoring a run. He got out of the inning without any more damage done, but the A's obviously did not manage to get anything done in their half of the ninth. A's lose, 3-2.
Not a great game, on the surface. But I'm just happy to watch Chad Pinder and Joey Wendle and Ryon Healy screw up, instead of Jed Lowrie and Billy Butler.
I'll take youthful mistakes over veteran incompetence every day.