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Game #25: A’s shut out for first time this year in quiet loss to Rays

Bright side: Another quality start by Cole Irvin

Oakland Athletics v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Not much to see here.

Sometimes you get a slow game, and that was Wednesday night for the Oakland A’s, in a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The A’s weren’t completely dominated, getting a couple good chances to score, but they couldn’t come through with the big hit whereas the Rays did for one inning. It’s the first time the green-and-gold has been shut out this season.

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

Continuing the theme of this series, both starting pitchers were strong. Cole Irvin went six innings for the A’s and struck out a career-high eight batters, while Tyler Glasnow upped the ante for Tampa Bay with seven innings and 10 Ks. Neither was perfect, and Irvin allowed his share of hard contact, but they generally punched their way out of trouble when needed.

Here’s the difference in the game. On two occasions against Glasnow, Oakland put on a pair of runners with two outs already on the board, and both times they couldn’t string together one more hit to cash in. But in the 5th, Tampa Bay’s two-out rally bore fruit, with a solo homer off a catwalk by Mike Zunino, and then a walk and two singles to knock home one more.

The A’s could have matched that output with one well-timed single, or a bloop and a blast, but they couldn’t quite find it tonight. Looming extra large was the walk after Zunino’s homer, which both extended the inning and also made the subsequent singles more impactful with a runner already aboard to drive home.

  • Irvin: 6 ip, 2 runs, 8 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 7 hits, 98 pitches, 96.2 mph EV

Not sure what else you could ask for out of your fifth starter. He got hit harder than that final line suggests, as you can see from the high exit velocity, but he got the job done against the defending AL champions and put his team in a position to compete. This was every bit of a quality start, and he helped himself by missing lots of bats and striking out one-third of his batters.

There were also a couple defensive highlights, including one by Irvin himself as he picked a runner off second base in the 1st inning. Later on, with a runner on 1st and one out, Ramon Laureano caught a fairly routine fly in CF and was gifted a double play when the runner misread the situation and ran to second.

Both bullpens carried the game into the top of the 9th, with Oakland needing two runs to avoid defeat. A pair of singles set up the tease, but they were ultimately stranded.

9th inning moves

The A’s made some curious decisions in that 9th. With a lefty reliever on the mound, they pinch-hit Jed Lowrie in place of Mitch Moreland, and then Sean Murphy in place of Seth Brown. Lowrie grounded out, then Matt Chapman singled, and then the Murphy move forced a pitching change to a righty but he got a hit anyway. That was an effective way to get a couple runners on base.

The problem is, it put Tony Kemp and Vimael Machin in the RBI roles, and they both got out. Was that the plan? Use all your firepower so that you could get runners on base for ... basically the two lightest hitters on the roster? While leaving Stephen Piscotty on deck, waiting to pinch-hit for a fellow righty?

I get that platoon advantage is a thing Oakland cares about deeply, but I think they overdid it here. I’d rather try my luck with good lefty hitters against a southpaw, or a hot righty against a righty pitcher, than below-average lefty hitters against a righty. The strategy was short-sighted and paid too little focus to having an endgame, and yet still at the same time somehow held too much back, which is a seemingly paradoxical combo of mistakes and yet here we are.

Let Moreland and Brown take their hacks against the lefty, and then have Lowrie and Murphy available to sub in for Kemp and Machin if you get a rally going. Or do what you did but use Piscotty for Machin. Or go halfway, like perhaps if the first two batters get out then you go ahead and replace Brown with a righty. And also, use Piscotty or Murphy first against the lefty, and save the switch-hitting Lowrie for last so he can still be used for Kemp/Machin if the Rays call on a righty, which they were obviously going to because they always play matchups.

But whatever you do, don’t pinch-hit all your good hitters for your other good hitters and then leave yourself with two light-hitting middle infielders with ducks on the pond and the game on the line. That has to be the worst percentage play of all the available options, regardless of platoon advantage.

Shake it off

Like last night, this was a close game against a top opponent, and the A’s did enough good things in total that they could have won. But the Rays won the battle of sequencing and made all the clutch plays that Oakland couldn’t muster, plus they got the edge in homers and walks, and all of that made the difference.

The A’s will make those plays on other days, and they’ll hit plenty of dingers and draw walks, so shake it off and go get ‘em tomorrow.