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Game #150: Bullpen wastes Jharel Cottton's gorgeous start, A's lose 4-2

You win some, you lose others when you throw Zach Neal in the eighth inning of a one run game.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Jharel Cotton's changeup is silly. It dips, it dives, and it befuddles hitters of both hands each and every time Cotton takes the mound.

Unfortunately, Bob Melvin's bullpen management is also silly. Zach Neal relinquished the lead in the 8th, Madson gave up two runs in the ninth, and the A's turned a Jharel Cottton win into an ugly loss in record time, losing by a count of 4-2.

Gattis dinger gets the scoring starting

In the top of the second, Evan Gattis, a bear masquerading as a baseball player, continued his rather annoying dominance of the A's with a long dinger to left-center field. This one was on a poorly placed fastball, so at least it wasn't some fluke swing on a ball above his eyes. 1-0, Astros.

Homer happy A's get it back, then another

In the bottom of the second, the A's scored a pair thanks to two solo dingers by our itty bitty baby A's.

First, Ryon Healy sent a flat curveball over the left-field fence for the A's first run of the day. That was Healy's 11th on the year, it extended his hitting streak to 10 games, and reaffirmed what he reaffirms on a seemingly nightly basis: he's awesome. At this point, my only fear for Healy is that he'll get bored with this game where he's a man among boys. And defense. Definitely defense. But good lord is his bat wrecking the league right now.

After a Semien groundout, Bruce Maxwell would join the party with his first big league shot, a blast over the high and deep left-centerfield wall. Congrats Bruce on the first of many big league dingers. 2-1, A's.

Thanks to our glutinous ways, global warming eviscerated the marine layer, and the ball was jumping tonight. So thank you (yes you) for taking part in second inning home run derby.

Jharel Cotton, absolute get

Trading Rich Hill and Josh Reddick was painful, especially with the vague possibility of extensions for both players permeating the media prior to the deadline. Fortunately, Jharel Cotton has been our spoonful of sugar that's helped that A's specific medicine go down.

Prospects bust more often than they don't, yet it looks like the A's can already feel just fine with how that trade has panned out. Yes, Cotton is far from a sure thing even with this excellent start, but he looks like a legit mid to back of the rotation guy with his stupidly good change, his poise on the mound, and his veteran-like ability to throw all of his pitches whenever he needs them.

Tonight, Cotton went six solid frames, the only damage he allowed was Gattis's bomb in the second. He allowed only one other hit, a seeing eye single to Carlos Correa, no walks, while striking out six. He likely could have gone deeper in the game, but why push the guy who will probably start game number four in 2017?

It's also clear that Jharel Cotton is very likable just three starts into his big league career. He, like many of these young A's, has a touch of awkwardness to him. You can always sense the happiness that accompanies his excellent results and there's something mildly adorable about watching him trot on and off the field.

The offense

After Healy/Maxwell took a trip to dingerville, the A's offense went silent. It appears they used all their runs on the stupid Royals, and that's alright by me. Brad Peacock is having a nice little year and pitched well, solo shots aside, and the Astros pen is deep with flamethrowers and murderous breaking balls. Two runs isn't ideal but at some point, the run outburst had to end.

The pen

After Cotton departed, Ryan Dull entered, and I feel like we haven't talked enough lately about how Ryan Dull has legitimately been a bullpen ace. He'd pitch a clean seventh including a punchout, and his ERA now stands at a sterling 2.27. Not bad for a 32nd round pick.

In the eighth, Bob Melvin went to Daniel Coulombe cause Melvin's not about to let some upstart kids take away his top draft pick by dingering all over the place. Coulombe got an out before allowing a single, and Melvin went to Zach Neal because Melvin's REALLY not about to let some upstart kids take away his draft pick by dingering all over the place. Zach Neal promptly allowed a double and the game was tied at 2-2.

Ryan Madson would come in and induce the final out of the eighth. We'll get to his ninth in a jiff.

The bullpen management was befuddling, albeit inconsequential in a lost year. Daniel Coulombe? I can see it, maybe, if and only if you're at a lefty heavy part of the lineup. Coulombe is an interesting piece, a guy who you can absolutely argue should see some time in September to see if he's got a future in Oakland. Sure. Neal? I suppose it is September and stranger things have happened than a Zach Neal becoming a bullpen asset.

But bringing them in back to back in a one run game was just a bad move. There are enough arms in September to get a better guy some innings especially in a one run game, and if you're going to go with a Coulombe, follow him up with a Doolittle or someone similar. Simple.

The ninth

Madson vs. the state of Texas (2016) has been an absolute slaughter.

In the ninth, Jose Altuve popped a single to right. It would have easily been caught by Josh Reddick, Brett Eibner, gosh, anyone but birthday boy (!!!!) Danny Valencia whose range is non-existent in the outfield. Carlos Correa would single Altuve to third. The A's then intentionally walked Evan Gattis to load the basis, a decision that I would dedicate more brainpower to think about in May. But now? Meh. Probably not the right move, but whatever.

Marwin Gonzalez singled past the drawn in infield to score two runs, making the score 4-2 in favor of the Astros. That's how it would end after an uneventful bottom half of the ninth, and the A's lost their 84th game.

Still a decent day for the kids

The game was ultimately lost by Melvin's strange bullpen choices and three guys who probably won't play a big role in 2017 and beyond. Cotton was phenomenal, Dull was his normal self, Healy blasted yet another dinger, Maxwell too, and there are things to be happy about. Think of the good, forget the bad, and on to the next. Let's take this series and put the Astros out of contention!

We'll see you tomorrow night for game two!