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Game #39: Homers Overcome Defense and Bullpen in 9-6 Win

The A’s scored 7 of their 9 runs on home runs, including 5 runs in the 9th inning. The defense and bullpen were once again awful, but this time the offense made that irrelevant.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners
I’ve fallen in the standings and can’t get up!
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

****Game Thread here! View our hopelessness and joy!****

“That’s probably the single biggest factor in where they stand in runs scored - how poorly they’ve done.” -Mark Mulder

I was ready to run with that brilliant analysis by tonight’s color commentator going into the 9th inning, but then the A’s did some good stuff. Tonight featured both multi-run home runs and hits with runners in scoring position, both of which have been comically lacking lately. The A’s would prove to need that offense to overcome their bad bullpen and worse defense. This game shaved a few days off my life, but I’ll take it to snap the losing streak.

Innings 1-6: Good Triggs, Happy Life

Nelson Cruz hit a first pitch home run in the 1st literally right after Glen Kuiper said Triggs v. Cruz would be a fun matchup to watch tonight and that Cruz is dangerous. Sigh.

The Mariners lead would not last long, though. In the 2nd, Alonso walked, then Healy homered. A home run with a runner on base - who knew?! Chase De Jong tried nibbling below the strike zone to get Healy to fall for the usual trap, but Healy didn’t bite. On 3-1 he got his pitch and blasted an absolutely gigantic home run to the middle of the upper deck in left field. Canha followed up with a single. He ultimately stole second but didn’t score. Still, 2-1 A’s.

Phegley reminded us in the 2nd, and then again in the 3rd, what it looks like to throw out baserunners. He got Danny Valencia in the 2nd on a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play. Phegley’s throw to second base was high, but his strength compensated for his accuracy and Lowrie applied a nice tag. He got the speedy Jean Segura in the next inning, this time with a perfect throw. The contrast with Vogt was night and day - Phegley has his own flaws as a catcher, but it was some incredibly refreshing defense.

Canha lead off the 4th double, his second hit of the night, and then Vogt hit an RBI double down right field line. We saw a rare bunt from Rosie to advance Vogt to third, then a Phegley single up the middle to make it 4-1. The catchers were doing work all over the place.

Throughout all of this, Andrew Triggs continued to pitch well. Actually, in many ways, I think it was one of his worst starts of the season - he left a few too many balls up in the zone, and while the only Mariner to really capitalize was Nelson Cruz, the mistakes were there. He also seemed to be having a little bit of trouble locating his fastballs to right-handed hitters. Still, he was able to make it work, lasting 6 innings and getting 4 strikeouts while holding Mariners to just their first inning run. When a 6 inning, 1 run game is one of your worst starts, you know you’re doing something special.

Sadly, it wasn’t enough to earn his 6th win of the season, because...

Innings 7-8: Tire Fire

After the A’s hit a couple warning track fly balls against old friend Dillon Overton, it was the Mariners’ turn to face our bullpen. First up was Ryan Dull.

Dull struck out Valencia in a 9 pitch at-bat, then gave up a single to Taylor Motter, who took second on a wild pitch. Heredia got majorly jammed but managed to dribble the ball up the third base line for an infield single to put runners on the corners with one out. Bob Melvin swapped in Daniel Coulombe for Dull, though Dull really had been unlucky more than bad. Dull looks completely shaken out there mentally, but he actually executed his pitches reasonably well tonight and just had some bad breaks.

Coulombe promptly hit Jarrod Dyson, the first batter he faced and Dyson’s second HBP of the night, to load the bases. Coulombe recovered and executed his first pitch to Carlos Ruiz perfectly, inducing a weakly hit ground ball directly to Ryon Healy - who let it roll under his glove, scoring 2 runs and putting runners on the corners, still with 1 out. Ryan Madson came in as the third reliever of the inning and once again induced a double play ball, and this time it was turned well - but just not quite quickly enough to beat out the speedy Jean Segura at first base. Segura was initially called out, but after a lengthy review, was ruled safe which allowed the run from third to score. There was lots of crowing in the game thread but I do think that safe was the right call - the ball just wasn’t firmly in Alonso’s glove when Segura hit the bag. Healy’s error ultimately cost 3 unearned runs to tie the game at 4-4. Weirdly enough, the inning ended with Jean Segura getting picked off at first.

After a wasted Healy leadoff single in the top of the 8th, Madson stayed in to pitch and gave up a backbreaking home run to Kyle Seager. It was a terrible changeup, right in the middle of the plate, and reminded me of the crushing Leonys Martin walkoff last year, or really any of the last several days - the A’s had the game, and then they blew it. We were all completely sure of it. It was done.

9th: Re-Joyce for Canha

Steve Cishek came in to close for the Mariners. Rajai Davis came in to pinch hit (no Pinder?) and came up with a single. And then it happened - a Matt Joyce homer. My pregame predictions were all coming to fruition - Healy at 3rd had cost us severely, and Matt Joyce batting leadoff had to work at some point. It wasn’t terribly deep but it was deep enough, an impressive shot considering the cold, heavy night air. After a Lowrie walk and an utterly inexplicable intentional walk to Plouffe (pinch hitting for Healy), Mark Canha managed to boop a home run off the top of the wall in left center to blow the game wide open and make it 9-5. Have a night, Mark Canha.

Those insurance runs would actually prove necessary - Santiago Casilla came to close the game for the A’s and, as always, it was not easy. Casilla hit Jarrod Dyson with a pitch (his third time being HBP tonight, poor man) and then allowed Dyson to steal second uncontested. An RBI single made it 9-6, but the Mariners couldn’t score any more (thanks in part to some good defense by Plouffe, bless the man), and the A’s actually managed to hang on.

So the A’s got the two key types of offense they’ve been missing: we saw several home runs with runners on base, and we saw some hitting with runners in scoring position. And boy, did we need it.

The A’s are back again tomorrow. Same time, same place.