The A’s loss to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night really wasn’t as bad as you may think. There’s a chance that some of you may have just happened to check the score this morning — or perhaps, yes, there is a chance — that you may have seen part of the first half of the first inning and decided that an hour was just too much of time to spend watching each of the remaining 17 more half innings. Kidding!
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It was, seriously, seemingly endless. And yes, the score did end up being a bit lopsided in favor of the Mariners but I promise you it wasn’t really all that bad. The A’s appeared as if they were, more or less, taking a little break. Just needing a little rest, a day to recover from what so far has been for all of us an exciting, yet, emotionally and physically taxing season. We may not be on the field with them but, for me at least, the late evening jumping around and screaming at the field or the tv, thanks to yet another heroic late inning comeback or extra innings victory, has made it an exhausting last five months.
The calendar is about to turn to the dog days of September and the A’s are preparing to make a run down the stretch towards the postseason, without a real day off in sight before the regular season concludes, maybe a mini vacay was just what they needed. Sure, it meant a 7-1 loss to a division rival who could potentially (but not likely) end up standing in the way of their postseason hopes, but worse things have happened this season. The team has survived them all to have a better record at the end of August than anyone expected them to at the end of September.
Besides, last night’s loss couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Seattle had been slumping and were in desperate need for a victory, still sitting five and half games behind the A’s for the second AL Wild Card spot. So why not let them have one game of the four game series? This morning the Mariners remain four and a half games back, still giving the A’s a pretty nice cushion and margin for error. On top of that, the both the Astros and the Yankees suffered much more unlikely losses than the A’s did. The Astros dropped a game to the Angels who are 17 games behind them in the division. The Yankees, whose record is four and a half games better than the A’s, lost to the Tigers who are currently three games away from 2018 postseason elimination. It was a perfect night to lose, take a breath and start fresh going down the stretch.
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So what actually happened in the game?
I’m sure you may be wondering what events took place in Thursday’s game, given I’ve really only mentioned the final score. The game did end with the Mariner’s defeating the A’s by the score of 7-1 but there was definitely some surprising action that happened first.
The Top of the First:
The first half of the first inning really did seem as thought it might never end. Frankie Montas was on the mound for Oakland for the first time since July 29 and, if you watched the top of the first that much was obvious. However, he wasn’t the only one having issues keeping the Mariners from scoring. Mitch Haniger lead off the game with a single. After striking out Denard Span, Montas allowed a double to Robinson Cano leaving both runners in scoring position with one out. Nelson Cruz reached base on a fielder’s choice but the A’s got Hangier at third for the second out of the inning and things seemed to be settling down.
Unfortunately, that was not the case for Montas and the A’s. Montas walked Kyle Seager to load the bases and Ryon Healy drove in the first run of the inning with a single to left. With the bases once again loaded and now two outs in the inning, Montas walked in a run after a seven pitch battle with Ben Gamel.
That’s when things just got weird. With Seager on third, Healy on second and Gamel at first base, Mike Zunino reached base on an extremely rare throwing error by Matt Chapman. Chapman’s error not only allowed both Seager and Healy to cross the plate, it kept the inning alive for the Mariners who were now leading 4-0.
Chapman just wasn’t himself Thursday as Dee Gordon singled on a softly hit ball to third. It was the kind of play that Chapman usually makes in his sleep. Or maybe it’s that Chapman just needed some sleep but either way Gamel came in to score and the inning continued.
Chapman doesn't make a play he usually makes, Gordon is safe and it's 5-0.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) August 31, 2018
With Haniger back at the plate Seattle had batted around and Montas had thrown 35 pitches. Thankfully, he was able to get out of the inning using just three more pitches to get Haniger on a groundout, for a grand total of 38 pitches in the first half inning of the game.
Montas somehow goes the distance, Wendelken saves A’s bullpen
It appeared that it would likely be a short night for Montas, despite three of the Mariners’ first five runs being unearned due to the error by Chapman. That, oddly enough, did not end up being the case. Montas allowed two more runs on an RBI single by Cano in the second and a solo home run to Haniger in the fourth, but managed to keep his pitch count down through six innings. He was relieved by recent call-up J.B. Wendelken in the top of the seventh. Montas finished his night having thrown 97 pitches which is impressive considering more than one-third of them came in that disastrously long first inning. He allowed just four earned runs on eight hits and a pair of walks, while striking out four batters. All in all, that is not what is considered to be a bad outing.
Wendelken also made a big impression, giving the A’s brass three big reasons to keep him up with the big league club. He pitched the final three innings and faced just one batter over the minimum. He allowed Healy his second single of the night while striking out Gamel, Zunino and Gordon. He gave the A’s overtaxed bullpen some much-needed and well-deserved rest so that the team could live to fight another day or another month, maybe even two.
The A’s get just four hits! (Really! JUST FOUR!)
It was not a day for the A’s offensively on Thursday at the Coliseum as they were able to get just three hits off of Seattle Mariners’ starter Wade LeBlanc over the first seven innings of the game. It’s no secret that Khris Davis has been in a slump since hitting his 39th home run of the season exactly a week ago Thursday in the team’s 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins, which I might add was the first game in a four game series that the A’s went on to win three games to one.
Beyond Davis, the rest of the A’s bats were just not there either. Semien and Stephen Piscotty were each able to single off of LeBlanc. Ramon Laureano provided the third hit off LeBlanc and the A’s only one for extra bases with a double in the bottom of the third.
When Adam Warren relieved LeBlanc to start the eighth inning the A’s were at finally able to thwart the threat of being shut out. After Semien drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch from Warren to Chad Pinder and later to third on Pinder’s grounder to Cano at second base, it was Jed Lowrie who singled to put the A’s on the board.
Jed Lowrie gets the A's on the board for the first time tonight pic.twitter.com/0Gb98vjW9Z— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 31, 2018
Still, that was all the offense they could muster as Nick Vincent pitched a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth.
Even though the A’s ended up with the loss and the Mariners’ gained a game in the standings, it was really the perfect time for the team to take a little imaginary vacay before heading down the stretch. The bullpen will be very rested and Matt Chapman isn’t likely to make another error for about the next year or so. Of course as an added bonus, both the Yankees and, more importantly, the Astros really took bigger hits than the A’s did, losing to teams far inferior to the Mariners. If you have to lose a game here or there to get a little rest (and all teams do!), last night was the perfect night for the A’s to take theirs.