Like a good ol’ childhood friend who runs up and switches off the Nintendo 64 before you can officially cross the finish line and kick their butt at Mario Kart, the A’s took whatever steps necessary to make sure that none of their baserunners ever had a chance to step on home plate.
Alex Bregman was probably one of those types of kids.
The A’s had ducks on the pond in nearly every inning, but the team couldn’t take advantage regardless against a struggling starter in Colin McHugh. In the first inning, a park-aided ground-rule double off of the bat of Marcus Semien was erased on a Semien baserunning blunder. A Matt Olson walk was sandwiched between strikeouts and wasted in the second inning, and in the third, fourth, and sixth innings leadoff singles were immediately erased by A’s hitters’ batting into double plays.
A one-out walk in the seventh inning was also erased by a double play. A leadoff walk in the eighth was immediately followed by a double play. The game ended on a questionable challenged double play. The A’s hit into six total double plays on the evening. It’s hard to score runs when the offense consistently erases all of its progress before it can cross the finish line. Given the performance of Kendall Graveman and the bullpen on the night, the A’s really should have stolen a victory from the division leader tonight, unfortunately, tonight just went down as another loss in a season full of them.
It wasn’t frustrating to watch, at all.
Kendall Graveman pitched well on the whole, but with the A’s offense stymied, his best effort wasn’t quite good enough. The Astros wound up putting quite a few runners on base against Graveman, but most runners were either stranded or retired thanks to some strong defense on the A’s behalf. Matt Chapman aided Graveman in the first inning after the first two Astros’ hitters reached base, vacuuming up a couple of ground balls slapped in his direction, resulting in a smooth double play and a put out to end the threat. The Astros made some loud contact in the second and third innings, but strong outfield defense limited the damage to merely a double over those frames.
The Astros were very aggressive at the plate, and the team’s aggression on 3-0 counts in particular gave Houston the lead in the fourth inning. Graveman began the inning with a couple of walks and a single to shallow right field that loaded up the bases with none out. After falling behind the next hitter Marwin Gonzalez 3-0, Gonzalez smacked Graveman’s next offering hard on the ground towards second base, and the ball was just under a stone-gloved Jed Lowrie’s outstretched arm for a two-run-scoring base hit. In the following inning, after a double from the red-hot Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve got ahead in the count 3-0 and hit a single up the middle, and it was only a superb throw from center fielder Boog Powell that nailed Bregman at home plate and prevented another run from scoring against Graveman.
Which play do you like more: Graveman's slide and throw or Boog Powell gunning out a runner at home? pic.twitter.com/GWM1c9eTDj— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 20, 2017
On the night, Kendall Graveman pitched six innings and allowed just the two runs. He gave up six hits, walked three, and struck three batters out. His velocity was noticeably slower than it has been in his previous starts, but despite the decrease in velocity he pitched well enough to keep his team in the game. On another night, he could have gotten a victory out of his performance. He also had some flashy plays on defense.
Six critical swings generated twelve outs for Oakland in tonight’s ballgame, the offense sabotaging itself and turning itself off before it was able to inflict any damage to their division rivals. In two-thirds of the A’s innings, the offense screwed themselves out of real opportunities to score, and the team had no chance at recovering. No base runner ever crossed the finish line, and the A’s lose 3-0. They’ll look to avoid the sweep tomorrow at 11:00.
Just like Jason from preschool. Dammit, Jason.