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Game #24: Too Little, Too Late

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Link to the Game Thread

The A’s really needed a win. After back-to-back hard-to-swallow losses against the Blue Jays, today’s game really felt like a must-win type of game. In the end, this game wound up being the toughest loss of the three. The A’s had countless opportunities early and wasted them, and then the offense fell silent until it was too late as the Blue Jays gradually put the game out of reach off of a heavily used bullpen.

After a clean, quiet, and quick first, Brett Anderson was hit hard to start the second. Justin Smoak began the frame with a long single deep in the left-center field gap, and the number five batter Teoscar Hernandez then immediately got ahead in the count 3-0. After Anderson battled back to make it a full count, Hernandez lofted a ball to left center, much like Smoak did. However, the wind happened to catch Hernandez’ hit, pushing the ball towards the wall and forcing Laureano to change course and race back to the fence.

What happened next needs to be seen to be believed.

For those unable or somehow unwilling to watch the above video, Laureano made an improbable catch at the wall, robbing Hernandez of a home run. However, on the play, Smoak strayed too far off of first base and needed to desperately sprint back to the bag. Seeing this, Laureano attempted to mimic the throw he made that earned him the defensive play of the year in 2018, uncorking a U-2 Bomber-esque throw back towards first base. Unlike his legendary throw of last year, this throw of Laureano sailed, more or less, 360 feet and well over everybody’s head and bounded towards the dugout, and Smoak slid into first and then reversed directions back towards second. Nick Hundley made a slick sliding stop to save the ball from bouncing out of play and fired it back towards second, the ball just barely reaching Jurickson Profar in time to apply a tag for the double play.

A very ordinary 8-2-4 double play. Anderson K’d the next batter to end the inning.

The good fun came to a screeching halt soon after that, unfortunately.

Whatever good fortune the A’s had in the second Anderson squandered in the third, giving up a single and a walk to the seven and eight hitters in Toronto’s lineup, and then gave up a tie-breaking single after a sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third. The Blue Jays’ best hitter, Freddy Galvis, attempted to safety squeeze another run home, but Kendrys Morales made a perfect throw home that just barely nailed the runner at the plate. Unfortunately, Anderson was nearly in the way of the throw and had to contort and duck out of the way of Morales’ throw and may have hurt himself on the play, as he needed to be removed a couple of batters later after he stumbled off the mound trying to field another infield grounder. Yusmeiro Petit replaced him in an emergency situation, but the damage was done as two runs had scored to give the Blue Jays the lead.

Meanwhile the A’s offense continued to look lifeless at the plate. In the first, consecutive two out walks were wasted after Matt Chapman got picked off for the second time in two days when he had no need to stray as far as he did off of second base. In the second, Stephen Piscotty and Profar hit the ball hard but right at people. In the third, Laureano was gifted first base on a soft curve hit by pitch, but wound up getting doubled off after he failed to run back to first base on a botched hit-and-run attempt from Robbie Grossman that hung up in the air to left field.

The A’s DID manage to push a single run across in the fourth, but managed to do so in the most uninspiring fashion. Marcus Semien, still hot to start the year, doubled on a low line drive to left center field, and Chapman walked after working a long count. Khris Davis, who had been pressing at the plate for the last couple of games, had a chance to come up big, and didn’t disappoint by hitting a high fly ball single to center. Due to the arc of the ball, it was tough to tell if it would get caught or not, so Semien wasn’t able to score, but the A’s did have the bases loaded with no outs. Kendrys Morales then bounced into a run scoring double play and Piscotty struck out looking on a ball down the heart of the plate and the inning was over, the A’s still down 2-1.

From there, the Blue Jays slowly expanded the lead. Ryan Buchter entered the game in the sixth and gave up a run after an errant pickoff throw allowed a baserunner to move from first to third. J.B. Wendelken continued to look pretty solid on the mound but still gave up a two run home run. As the game crept upon its third hour of play, the score was 5-1.

And then, the A’s made things interesting.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, after the offense had laid dead for the entire homestand, against reliever Ryan Tepera, finally, there was a spark. Laureano worked a walk after battling for six pitches, and Chad Pinder, pinch hitting, advanced Laureano to second on a productive out. Grossman had an eight pitch at bat and then walked. Semien, carrying the offense on his shoulders through this tough stretch, then singled Laureano home. The score was 5-2.

A wild pitch moved baserunners to second and third, and Chapman launched a sacrifice fly to bring the A’s a little bit closer. Davis once again came to the plate with a chance to do some damage, and like in his previous opportunity with runners on base, Davis hit a high fly ball to the outfield that managed to drop just outside of any outfielder’s reach. However, with two outs in the inning, Semien could break from second on contact and make it to home to score yet another run. Morales flew out to end the inning, but with the A’s down by just one going into the ninth inning, the game didn’t feel hopeless anymore.

Piscotty lead off the bottom of the ninth with a single and with one out Laureano hit a single of his own to put the tying run in scoring position. Josh Phegley, who has been clutch and batting with the game on the line, got ahead in the count 2-0, before making three awful swings on unhittable pitches for a strikeout. With two outs, all it took was a harmless fly ball out to shallow left center field off the bat of Grossman to end the game.

The A’s need to do better, plain and simple. With injuries to Anderson and Marco Estrada, the depth of the rotation is about to be tested, but given how things have been going there is a good chance Chris Bassitt or Daniel Mengden can take hold of the role and bring the staff to a competent level.

There is a chance to end this home stand on a high note, as the Rangers come into town for a three game series starting tomorrow.