In a lot of ways, today's game highly resembled a spring training game. The A's had a pair of rotation hopefuls pitch short multi-inning stints, and rookies, determined fringe players, and guys playing out of position were spread out on the field behind them. The game never really felt competitive, not for long anyways, and there was a stronger emphasis on "getting reps and experience" rather than playing tough, hard-fought baseball. There were various mistakes on the field on both sides, some resulting in errors but some slipping through those arbitrary definitions, but most all of them resulting in runs.
But while spring is a time for unbridled joy and boundless hopes and expectations about the year to come, tonight's game spelled for, at best, nihilistic apathy, though more typically resulted in hapless frustration. Poor performances that, in spring, could be attributed to finding a sense of rhythm or going through growing pains now just reflect the worst patterns and behaviors that have plagued and hindered the team all season. The comforting thought of having an entire season to work out the kinks replaced by the empty realization that the team never had a chance and was out of time, naught but the cold, dark winter lying ahead.
Mengden was one of the most improbable and inspiring stories on the A's this season, possessing the competitive drive and work ethic that any team would want their athlete's to have. Moving up multiple levels in one season without missing a beat isn't something that most ballplayers can do, and Mengden never backed down from any challenge his team put forth. But at this stage of the season he is tired, and his stuff doesn't bite, bulldog mentality or no. His struggles when reaching the third time in the batting order have been well documented here, but tonight he couldn't even make it through the order twice. With a flat fastball and just a fraction of the control he usually possesses, Mengden managed to hang around without much trouble for the first three innings, but in the fourth the wheels came off immediately. Mengden faced seven batters in the fourth inning, all of whom reached base and all of whom scored, the biggest blow of the inning coming on Jefry Marte's grand slam, before getting pulled in favor of Zach Neal.
Going up against Ricky Nolasco, who is having a good month but is also Ricky Nolasco, the A's scratched out one unearned run in eight innings. Ryon Healy was just fine, managing three hits in four at bats while also hitting a double, but the entire rest of the lineup was AWOL as usual, totaling three hits, all singles, and just two walks, with each of the baserunners so spread out the A's never had much of anything that would resemble a rally. This isn't new, the streakiness of the offense has been around all season, though it is discouraging to see this latest cold stretch dominated primarily by players who are competing for valuable roster spots next season.
Brett Eibner was particularly bad today, on both sides of the baseball.
Spring training 2017 can't get here soon enough, so long as today wasn't a preview of things to come.