When Sonny Gray exited after six strong innings of work, things seemed to be going well for the Green and Gold (or the Pink and Grey, as the case may be). And when the A's added another run in the top half of the seventh, things looked even better. I even allowed myself to start thinking thoughts like "this was exactly how this team was put together to win", and "man, these misfit toys sure fit together well on this island."
But then the seventh inning happened. Ryan Dull came in and got a quick first out, retiring Carlos Gomez. But then Joey Gallo walked. Delino DeShields singled. Shin-Soo Choo walked. Liam Hendriks came in. Elvis Andrus singled and Nomar Mazara doubled and suddenly the A's were down two. Hendriks stopped the bleeding there, but that was all the Rangers would need.
In many ways, this game was a microcosm for the A's season to this point. The team did a lot of good things. Every starter except Khris Davis got a hit. Yonder homered again and started a beautiful 3-6-3 double play. The hitters only struck out five times. Sonny Gray looked a little bit more like pre-2016 Sonny Gray. Frankie Montas looked totally nasty and struck out both batters he faced.
But there were still plenty of points of concern. Yes, Sonny looked a lot better, but he worked too many three-ball counts and couldn't put hitters away when he had them down. Yes, it's only his third start of the season (a season without a spring training too). Yes, his velocity is up. Yes, his swinging strike percentage is in line with his career average. So I think Sonny is probably fine and probably going to be fine, but I don't know if we can ever count on him being an ace in every sense of the term, and I don't think we can bank on flipping him for an ace-like package.
The Rangers stole three bases today, which isn't at all an indictment on Maxwell as he didn't even have enough of a chance to make a throw on the first two. Rosales kicked a ball that should have been an out. The bullpen continued to show why it's ranked in the bottom third of MLB WAR among relief pitching.
Tonight's game individually feels the way the season has felt overall. So much good has happened. Yonder has finally broken out and started to vindicate everyone who ever saw all-star potential in him. Jed Lowrie continues to be one of the best bargains in baseball, posting a 135 wRC+ at present. Khris Davis is making a strong bid to show that last season wasn't an anomaly. The A's have gotten incredible contributions from the young and talented starting pitching trio of Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, and Andrew Triggs.
But there's been a lot of bad too, and at this point, the bad has outweighed the good. Our catchers, who looked like the most stable group of position players in spring training, have contributed next to nothing. Ryon Healy hasn't broken out as much as one might hope (although he's shown plenty to get excited about). Trevor Plouffe has been disappointing. I won't harp too much more on the bullpen, but as someone mentioned on the thread tonight, the A's really miss Sean Doolittle.
At the end of each game, the good and the bad are totaled up. As the season progresses, the wins and losses record - this sum of sums - becomes more telling. It's only the middle of May and the A's are a hot couple of weeks from being back in the thick of the American League West. But it's hard to see right now how all of these pieces can fit together and produce consistent winning baseball.
Maybe I'm being too negative. Marcus Semien will eventually be back. Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Franklin Barreto look good in Nashville. And if all else fails, the A's should be able to cash in on a few of their veteran pieces come July. Or maybe I'm not being realistic enough, and this is just an average team made up of average players leading us towards a 72-90 season.