Today’s loss wasn’t bad, at least not in the way some losses of the past couple years have been. The A’s weren’t outplayed; in fact, this series showed that we can play with teams like the Astros. But it certainly was an ugly loss.
Let’s start with the positives. Astros’ starting pitcher, Gerrit Cole, has been incredible this season. And while he was really good today, the A’s did get to him for three runs on six hits in 6.2 innings of work. Now Cole struck out 12 hitters (14 A’s K’d on the day), but the A’s were the first team to score more than two runs against Cole in 2018. Per Jane Lee, it was also the first time in six starts Cole didn’t complete seven innings. So we got that going for us.
Jonathan Lucroy was 3-4 with a double and 2 RBI. Chad Pinder was 2-4 with a double and a homer. Marcus Semien and Stephen Piscotty both doubled too. And while the A’s were fine with runners in scoring position - 3 for 11 - the four, five, and six hitters went a combined 0 for 11 with 7 strikeouts.
Still, while the offense as a whole wasn’t great, the bats did enough to keep the A’s in the ballgame. And in the game the A’s were, right up until the seventh inning.
Trevor Cahill started the seventh. He had pitched six strong, and to this point, had struck out five without allowing any walks. The Astros had already shown a propensity for answering quickly, and after the A’s scored a run in the top of the seventh to equalize at 3, a shutdown inning would have been nice.
But Cahill walked Alex Bregman to open the seventh, ending Trevor’s afternoon. Bregman promptly stole second, and then advanced to third on Lucroy’s throwing error. It was Lucroy’s second error of the game after he was cited for catcher’s interference in the third (surprisingly, the batter was not Josh Reddick this time).
Bregman then scored after Marcus Semien couldn’t catch Brian McCann’s pop up. It would have been a challenging play, but definitely one you’d like your starting shortstop to make. McCann came all the way around to score from first on Jake Marisnick’s double. Ryan Dull then tried to pick Marisnick off second but instead threw the ball into centerfield, capping the A’s seventh inning sloppiness.
Putting it kindly, Chad Pinder, was slow to backup several plays, two of the seventh inning errors included. But I’m hesitant to call this a lack of effort or focus; mental mistakes/mental laziness is not something I’ve come to associate with Chad. Instead, like most things in life, it’s probably best to rely on the Occam’s razor explanation - Chad Pinder, for all his versatility, is not a natural centerfielder and indeed lacks the instincts of one.
The seventh inning damage could well have been worse - the A’s awful defensive showing only cost three runs - but it did put the Green and Gold in a hole they’d never climb out of.
Unfortunately, the eighth inning turned out to be nearly as frustrating, albeit for different reasons. Santiago Casilla relieved Ryan Dull, and worked a quick out, but then walked and hit the next two batters. A hit and a sacrifice fly extended the Astros lead to 8-3, putting the game well out of reach.
Despite the frustrating end, the game did have its share of excitement. This will shock no one, but Matt Chapman made another phenomenal play:
Stop the game and give Chapman his gold glove! pic.twitter.com/gxMuMMNTEQ— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) April 29, 2018
The Astros executed a safety squeeze:
And what seemed like a Max Stassi homer was called back after video replay confirmed fan interference:
Don’t lose heart. The A’s head to Seattle to close out a long road trip and still have the opportunity to make it a success. At last check, Dustin Fowler was a single away from the cycle for AAA Nashville, so perhaps an infusion of young talent is on the way. No game tomorrow, but we’re back on West Coast time starting Tuesday. Have a great rest of your weekend everyone.