The other day, as I approached the accounting office I worked at on a foggy morning, I heard an odd, exuberant chirping by the front door. Eager to put off work and curious to find the source of the chirping, I got on my hands and knees and, after a few moments, found the culprit- a parakeet with a teal blue plumage and a soft white head and short curved beak. Slowly extending my hand, the parakeet, with slight hesitation, leapt to my outstretched finger and, as I slowly rose, quickly and determinedly made its way to my shoulder, where it would take perch, with its surprisingly tough grip, for the time being. My office, normally a place so quiet a pin dropping sounds like a piece of china crashing on the floor from a long fall, was suddenly abuzz with fascination over my new feathered friend, a bright and colorful mascot for a place that for so long has felt like an abyss of gray.
My officemates immediately knew what to do. One woman had an old birdcage at home, it just needed some cleaning, and quickly departed to go grab it. Another woman said that she would go buy birdseed while on her break, not all too long from then. Someone else, noting the tag on its leg, called the humane society just in case someone was searching for their lost pet. Nary had an hour passed before the bird, which I had nicknamed "The Paraccountant," a terribly unfunny pun that was definitely just a placeholder while I thought of a better name, had a home in the office, fit with all the amenities of home- food, water, and controlled weather in the form of an air conditioner and heater. My office, for so long a room that sucked energy from all life that entered it, suddenly felt alive and purposeful. The Paraccountant was a symbol of changing times.
The next day, upon entering the office, the Paraccountant was dead.
It is quite symbolic of the A's season as a whole, as well as this wonderful game tonight that the team just played. Sure, last season was terrible, and gray, and left nothing more than a feeling of emptiness, but this season was going to be different. The bad clubhouse presences were gone, there were multitudes of bright, youthful pieces expecting to take significant steps forward in their sophomore seasons, a revamped bullpen expected to replace the dumpster fire that stood place before them, and esteemed veterans were hungry for a comeback. A team that had long felt lethargic suddenly felt alive and purposeful. Times were changing.
Sean Manaea was beautiful today. His fastball ranging from as low as 89 to as high as 95, Manaea had Astros batters off balance all day, striking out the side in both the second and fifth innings (using all of his pitches, as he recorded strikeouts with his fastball, slider, and changeup) and forcing the Astros to make bad swings resulting in weak contact throughout. Considering how deep in the season it is and how injury-shortened his previous seasons have been, Manaea pitching this effectively in late September is nothing short of remarkable and bodes many-a positive signs for next year's team. His pitch total and innings limited, Manaea's line on the night wound up being six innings, three hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts on just 85 pitches.
The offense killed him dead.
The offense did that thing again that makes watching painted grass dry as it grows appealing. Through nine innings in tonight's ballgame, the A's had scored one run on two hits. Both of those hits, courtesy of Jake Smolinksi and Joey Wendle back-to-back, were ordinary ground balls that happened to get through to the outfield because the Astros were shifting extremely against two batters who don't really need to be shifted extremely. That inning, the sixth, the A's would actually score a run, as a Marcus Semien walk loaded the bases allowed Stephen Vogt to weakly ground out and drive in a run. After that inning, the A's offense would resume not doing anything for the duration of regulationIt should be noted that Joe Musgrove, starter for the Astros, pitched rather well as he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, only to be bested by the man who replaced him out of the bullpen, Chris Devenski, who retired all eleven batters he faced in relief.
John Axford came on in relief in the seventh but did the opposite of relief as he allowed a leadoff baserunner on an Evan Gattis single. Gattis would be replaced at first after a force out by Marwin Gonzalez. With two outs in the eighth inning with Tony Kemp coming up to the plate, a hard ground ball up the middle would deflect off of Axford's body, forcing Joey Wendle behind him to suddenly have to try and change directions mid sprint, resulting in Wendle falling down on the infield with the live ball rolling right passed him undisturbed. The game would remain tied until the tenth inning.
With Sean Doolittle on the mound, once again it was Tony Kemp leading the way for the Astros by hitting a double to right field, who would move to third base on a bunt. With the infield drawn in, George Springer hit a hard ground ball just passed a diving Wendle to bring the run home.
The A's, to their credit, to give them any silver lining, made things interesting in the bottom of the tenth against Astros' closer Ken Giles. After an Alonso walk, the A's would get their first non-shift-aided hit of the game as Brett Eibner hit an inside-out single into right field. Bruce Maxwell walking would load the bases for the A's, with only one out, but Jake Smolinksi and Joey Wendle couldn't get the job done as the A's wind up losing 2-1.
There are so many reasons to be excited for next year's team, ranging from the exciting, maturing young arms or the scores of upper-minors prospects poised to making the team at a moment's notice. Tonight showcased none of the reasons as to why anyone should be excited. Tonight, Manaea's beautiful plumage was selfishly killed by the offense behind him.
RIP The Paraccountant.