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Game #5: A's Fall 10-5, Alcantara Hit Hard

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In a game that could have been more exciting with a few different rolls of the die, the A's battled early and late, but fell meekly to the Rangers in the opener.

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"Even though last season was painful from the get-go, I found myself still incredibly fired up for a whole week of non-stop A’s baseball, and as we head into the weekend..." – BBG

"Hold my beer." – A’s

--Alex Hall

First off all, you may have noticed the decorative design of the Rangers' outfield. I'm sure they are super pleased about starting a brand-new baseball season with crop circles in the outfield. In case you were wondering, it's because a recent golf exhibition killed the grass and they had to re-sod. They expect the alien writings to remain in the outfield until May at least.

Would you like me to describe in detail the designs in the grass? I think a line-by-line description of the lines in the outfield and how they compare to ancient writings would be more interesting to you than this game. I'd say that it was boring to watch, but that's not exactly true. Innings one and two were a nightmare, but it's no exaggeration when I say that the A's had a moment to put themselves squarely into a competition, but baseball, like life, turns on a dime. It's never the difference of one at-bat, you know, but it sure felt like it tonight.

Sometimes, things work out for you as a starting pitcher, and sometimes, well, they just don't. It's not like Raul Alcantara had the defense on his side, nor the replay process, but I think he shoulders most of the blame for the three-run first inning and the five-run second, capped by a two-run home run after he should have been out of first and a grand slam to put a halt to the steady stream of base-runners in the second. 

Have an inning, Carolos Gomez. If there was an MVP award for an inning, Gomez would win in a landslide, as he robbed a home run from Matt Joyce in the first (spoiler alert: Joyce would make sure Gomez could not catch his next hit) and a possible hit from Ryon Healy, and on his side of the plate, hustled into second with a manufactured double and scored on two ground outs for the Rangers' first run. To be fair, the A's had already conceded the run in the first when Yonder Alonso fielded the ground ball behind the base and instead of firmly tagging the base for the second out, he sort of took a swipe at the base (I thought he tagged it) and threw home. Because Gomez was perfect in the inning, of course he slid around the tag at home and even after the challenge, the A's found themselves with nothing to show for the play except a 1-0 deficit and a runner on first. Just a mistake; how bad could it be? Narrator: It could be a lot worse.

Enter Rougned Odor, who made both Alcantara and Alonso pay by immediately crushing a home run to give the Rangers the 3-0 lead. And if that wasn't bad enough, I submit the second inning for your consideration. Alcantara walked Gallo to open the inning and with one out, threw the ball away on the pick-off attempt to move the runner to third. He then walked the batter and hit the next to load the bases. After giving up a run-scoring single to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead, Alcantara left a fastball right there and Nomar Mazara doubled the score, sending the Rangers to an 8-0 lead.

Normally at this moment, you'd "click" and go on with your night, but something about this night felt different, or at least it did early. With one out (thanks to Plouffe, who was all but useless tonight), Alonso walked and Semien was hit by a pitch to put two on. After Rajai struck out, the two base-runners still set the table for Joyce, who was robbed in the first. He did not miss his second opportunity. He absolutely crushed a ball over the foul pole; the only question was fair or foul, and the scoreboard answered this one; the A's suddenly trailed 8-3.

Alcantara did indeed finish the second inning and likely would have continued, but the A's made it interesting for a moment in the third, so Jesse Hahn took over, not without an ironic glance at the scoreboard, as if to say, "I could have done that." Hahn did better than that; his six strong innings tonight only yielded two runs.

If there was a true Sliding Doors moment for the A's, it was in the fourth inning. Khris Davis led off with a home run to cut the deficit to 8-4, and the A's kept rallying. Vogt singled, Lowrie walked, and of course Plouffe struck out to have an unproductive at-bat, but it turned out to not be the worst at-bat of the inning. Alonso singled to load the bases, bringing up Marcus Semien, at the plate with one out. And he worked a 3-0 count. I'm not kidding when I say that literally anything; including taking strikes one, two and three (and he very likely would have walked) would have been better than what actually happened. After strike one, Semien swung at not-his-pitch and grounded into the game-ending, bad-tasting, rally-killing double-play. And just like that, the rally died and the A's were done. They would put another runner on in the sixth, but Plouffe doubled him off in what was not a banner night for him; he also struck out in the ninth inning rally.

Hahn gave up his two runs in the sixth, to increase the score to 10-4. The A's put on a tiny teAse in the ninth and scored a run, but the momentum was lost well before the last inning. It's a game they weren't going to win, so we try it again tomorrow; Graveman vs. Darvish. The A's, historically, have been great against Darvish.