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Game #127: A’s force extras but fall to Orioles 8-7

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Aaaaalmost
Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

These rookies don’t quit. The Oakland A’s didn’t quite manage to steal the win on Wednesday, but after stretching it all the way to the 12th inning it was hard to be discouraged by their hard-fought 8-7 loss.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

Daniel Gossett got the ball for Oakland to start the day, after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville for another crack at the MLB rotation. He breezed through the first three innings, getting Baltimore to flail all over and racking up five strikeouts.

However, in the 4th the Orioles woke up. A couple quick singles turned into a three-run homer by Trey Mancini and a crooked number on the board. By the end of the 6th, Baltimore led 6-1, thanks to another dinger by Welington Castillo (off reliever Daniel Coulombe).

Gossett: 5 ip, 5 ER, 6 Ks, 2 BB, 8 hits, 1 HR

This is the point where the recent Representative Product A’s teams would spend the rest of the afternoon trudging toward certain defeat, but not this group of hungry youngsters. They’d been stymied by starter Dylan Bundy all day, but they didn’t let the right-hander record a shutdown inning in the 7th. The rally:

  • Khris Davis double
  • Ryon Healy infield single to SS (he’s slightly quicker than we give him credit for)
  • Matt Olson lines RBI single past the shift into RF
  • Matt Chapman foulout
  • Bruce Maxwell lines RBI single to CF

Just like that, the A’s were back in the game. They didn’t stop there, as Marcus Semien led off the 8th with a hit and Matt Joyce followed with a homer. The deficit was cut to 6-5.

That dinger was Joyce’s 19th of the season, tying his career high. Unfortunately, the other Chris Davis homered in the bottom of the frame to give Baltimore an insurance run. (Note: Our Khris Davis still has him beat with a 120 wRC+ and 34 HR, compared with Chris’ 98 wRC+ and 20 HR.)

That brought on Zach Britton, who entered with a streak of 60 consecutive saves converted without blowing one, dating back to late 2015. But this is the same Britton who hadn’t allowed a homer to a lefty since 2013 until he ran into Matt Olson a couple weeks ago, and the Bat Pack was not intimidated. They put together the following rally:

  • Jed Lowrie single
  • Boog Powell slaps double down LF line (dude is a piranha and would fit in with the pesky Royals; he’s sort of like what we hoped Billy Burns would become)
  • Marcus Semien bounces an RBI single through the SS/3B hole
  • Matt Joyce rips a sac fly to deep CF

Game tied, save blown, streak over. Britton settled down from there, winning a rematch against Olson with the bases loaded and then fanning Chapman. After a suspenseful 9th from Chris Hatcher, we were headed to bonus baseball.

Extra innings brought us an interesting treat: Castro vs. Castro. That is, Baltimore’s Miguel, pitching against Oakland’s Simon, for the rest of the game. The pair dueled for a couple scoreless frames, but Manny Machado finally broke the stalemate in the 12th with a walk-off homer.

If you’ve been bored by the last couple years of A’s baseball, then it’s time to start watching again. They didn’t quite get it done on this day, but these comebacks (and big rallies in general) are getting increasingly common — and a big part of it is the six youngsters (Healy plus five rookies) who are now regularly in the lineup. You might have to sit through some awful pitching at times while that side of the youth movement sorts itself out, but in the meantime you can bet on some dingers, some exciting never-say-die offense, and even some quality defense now.

On that last note, a few observations:

  • Bruce Maxwell threw out a base stealer, but the credit should really go to Chad Pinder at second base. The runner actually beat the throw, but Pinder’s foot was positioned in just the right spot to completely block his hand trying to reach the bag. Pinder has made a couple miscues lately both in the field and on the bases, but this was a brilliantly executed heads-up play.
  • Matt Olson pulled off an excellent double play in the 8th. He ranged far up the RF line to deftly snag a low foul popup, then spun around and fired a dart to home plate to catch Tim Beckham trying to make it a sac fly. Olson has long been advertised as bringing plus defense, maybe even elite, and this was a great real-world example of that skill in action.
  • Matt Chapman almost flubbed a play, but then his central processor calculated a new equation for success so he did that instead. In the 4th, with Gossett struggling and four runs already in, runners on first and second with two out, he couldn’t quite corral Beckham’s grounder to end the rally. However, the lead runner turned too wide around third base, and when Chapman realized he had no play at first base he turned and nabbed that guy. Nice heads-up recovery to turn a bad hop into a TOOTBLAN.
  • This is the opposite of defense, but Hatcher and Castro combined to strike out six of the 13 batters they faced.

The A’s lost the series, but only barely. There are moral victories to be taken in late August of a rebuilding year — the rookies had a big few days and avoided a road sweep, and we were treated to some exciting games after so long in the Butlerian doldrums. The Bat Pack returns home on Friday night to face the Rangers, Kendall Graveman vs. A.J. Griffin.

Extra note: After the game, the A’s announced they’d traded OF Rajai Davis to the Red Sox for a low-level prospect. Good luck to Rajai in the postseason!