The first inning was good. Daniel Mengden retired the side; Dustin Fowler led off with a single and came all the way around to score on a wild pitch. Unfortunately, this was the high-water mark for the A’s on Tuesday evening.
While he needed just seven pitches to get through the first, Daniel the Green Cleats threw 28 in the second inning. Home run. Double. Walk. Home run. Walk. By the inning’s end, the ‘Stros had pushed four runs across the plate.
Whatever his faults - and count those green shoes among them - Mengden has consistently thrown strikes this year. His disappointing effort tonight was largely due to his inability to command the zone. Mengden completed 4.2 innings, allowing eight hits, four walks, and six earned runs. He allowed twice as many homers - two - as he struck out batters.
It wasn’t all lost though, even despite Mengden’s lousy showing; when he was lifted in the fifth, half the game remained. The A’s might have saved themselves if the bullpen performed and the bats pushed across a few runs. Unfortunately, only half of that equation came through. Danny Coulombe, Chris Hatcher, Santiago Casilla, and Liam Hendriks combined to pitch 5.1 innings and allowed just four hits, one walk, and no runs. Hatcher lowered his season ERA from 4.35 to 3.97, and don’t look now, but the man formerly (or perhaps forever?) known as Gascan Casilla is pitching to a 3.18 ERA.
On offense, it was a tale of two teams. The A’s got just seven hits, but five came from two players - Dustin Fowler pitched in with two singles and Matt Chapman collected three doubles. Indeed, Chapman is credited with Oakland’s only extra base hits of the night. The A’s left nine runners on base; had the A’s not been so profligate, who knows how this contest might have turned out.
It’s not all doom and gloom, although you’d be forgiven for being tired of marking an “L” in that all-important column when Houston rides into town. Stephen Piscotty continues to add value defensively:
And despite getting drilled on his left hand in his final plate appearance, Chappie says he’ll be good to go for tomorrow:
Chapman says X-rays on hand were negative and he thinks he’ll be able to play tomorrow.— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) June 13, 2018
Baseball has a number of very good teams right now. It probably has an even greater number of miserable outfits. The A’s don’t fall into either category; as our record and trend-lines show, we’re about equidistant from each extreme. The line-up and pitching staff retain their share of holes, and it’s unlikely this season bears the fruits of the labors of a rebuild. But we’re not far away. Even our ‘bad’ days are so much less bad than last season.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier tomorrow. The task of righting the ship falls to Paul Blackburn, and if he’s to do so, he’ll have to get past Gerrit Cole. But no matter how well Blackburn or any of the other A’s pitch, Bob Melvin and co. have to find some way to wake-up the bats.