As the music dies, something in your eyes
Calls to mind the silver screen
And all its sad good-byes
--Careless Whisper, George Michael
There is no doubt about it: Changes have come to Oakland this season; perhaps none as obvious as the tarp removal from the view level in Oakland, which made its debut tonight. There are more signs to come that the new president is taking pride in the Oakland franchise and making a concerted effort to listen to the fans. There is an air of excitement in Oakland these days; certainly evident at first pitch tonight, and it's a wonderful feeling. Of course, especially at this time of year, we are reminded that you can't have the sweet without the sour; and it certainly was a bittersweet moment as we re-lived the sad good-bye as the strains of Careless Whisper wafted through the stadium during Josh Reddick's at-bat; a classy welcome for a beloved former player.
At the risk of burying the lede (and adding to the sour), I am obligated to report that Kendall Gravemen left the game after just five complete innings and 74 pitches. Although he was in and out of trouble during his short outing, his only run allowed was a solo home run to Norichika Aoki, which tied the game in the fifth to match Khris Davis' solo shot in the second.
Things could have been worse for Graveman, as he had baserunners all over the place, in every inning. Altuve led off the fourth with a single, stole second and advanced to third on the first out of the inning. Graveman walked the next batter and hit the next to load the bases, all with one out. But he battled back, inducing two mile-high pop-ups; one caught by Plouff and one by Semien. And then, in the very next inning, he gave up a home run to Aoki. And then left the game.
Spoiler alert: Things would, in fact, get worse for the A's.
Ryan Madson made a rare appearance in the sixth inning, and it went about as well as you'd imagine a sixth inning from him to go. After he recorded the first two outs easily, he gave up singles to McCann and Gonzalez. Then a stolen base put runners on second and third, and the A's early nemesis, Aoki, struck again, beating out an infield single for the RBI; a play that held up even with the replay. That was all for Madson, as Ryan Dull ended the inning with a strikeout.
Apropos of nothing, we have a lot of Ryans/Ryons on this team.
The Astros added another run early in the seventh, courtesy of the ever-useless Trevor Plouffe, as he uncorked a horrific throw to first that scored Altuve from second and showed Dull the exit. Enter Daniel Coulombe, who promptly gave up a two-run double to increase the deficit to 5-1.
Raul Alcantara replaced Coulombe in the eighth and became the latest unwilling victim of the A's crappy defense. The eighth inning itself went just swimmingly for Alcantara, but the ninth was just as ugly as the innings before it, and had the special distinction of adding two runs to Houston's total without the benefit of a single hit.
Jose Altuve walked to open the inning and was balked to second. Someone needs to remind me why Trevor Plouffe is on this team, as he uncorked yet another wild throw for another run scored. In his defense, this throw could have been caught by Healy; I'm not sure he had much chance at the last. It's certainly easy to argue that Yonder Alonso was missed at first. A sacrifice fly gave Houston their seventh run of the night, and mercifully, their night ended there. And as just to underscore my frustration with Plouffe, he smacked a garbage solo home run in the ninth for the A's second run. The ninth inning teAse it ignited wasn't nearly enough to overcome the anemic platoon offense of the prior eight innings, or the double play by Rosales, or the moment when Semien was stranded at second after a lead-off double as all of the batters after him struck out; you name it, really.
This is an easy game to forget, assuming Graveman is okay, and if you can ignore the warning signs that the A's defense will eventually cost them a closer game than tonight's.
Next up is tomorrow afternoon's game: McCullers Jr against Manaea. We'll have all your action back here.