At least it wasn’t quite as bad this time. They even held a lead for a few minutes!
The Oakland A’s lost again, for the sixth straight time to open the 2021 season. The score against the Los Angeles Dodgers was only 5-1, which is an improvement over their previous defeats, but moral victories run thin the longer it takes to get a literal win.
*** Game Thread #1 | Game Thread #2 ***
The first bright side came in the 1st inning. It took until the sixth game of the year, but for the first time the A’s took a lead — Jed Lowrie and Ramon Laureano hit back-to-back doubles to put Oakland on top 1-0. But that turned out to be all they got for the evening, as three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was in full form.
Ramón puts us on the board first #RiseAndGrind pic.twitter.com/mrsLg2XTPt— Oakland A's (@Athletics) April 7, 2021
The A’s almost scored one more run, but not quite as the April nightmare continued and everything that can go wrong does. Stephen Piscotty blasted a ball into the second deck in left field, and initially he was allowed to round the bases for a homer. However, the umpires quickly conferred, and soon the call was overturned to a foul ball after the fastest replay review in history. Piscotty grounded out to shortstop on the next pitch.
They say you can’t defend against homers, but somehow 2021 found a way to make it happen to star-crossed Oakland. It sounds like it wasn’t really close and the ball was indeed foul, and that was my instinct based on where it appeared to land on the TV broadcast angle, but even just being offered the possibility of a desperately needed dinger only to pull it back was very on-brand for this cruel past week.
Fair or foul??— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) April 7, 2021
It was called a home run on the field but overturned after review pic.twitter.com/OJCDI7sYkX
Meanwhile, as you might expect, the Dodgers scored more than one run. Starter Chris Bassitt didn’t have his best game, but he didn’t have his worst either. There was quite a bit of hard contact, resulting in nine hits including a pair of homers, but he kept the free passes to one walk and one HBP and he finished just one run away from a quality start.
Bassitt: 6 ip, 4 runs, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 2 HR, 9 hits, 102 pitches
A lot of days, that line will win you the game. It’s easily the best start by the A’s rotation so far, though the Dodgers did make him work with some deep counts. One of the homers was by former A’s prospect Max Muncy, because of course it was, in case you’d forgotten that they gave up on him before he became a star.
The bullpen also had its best game so far. Lou Trivino tossed another perfect inning, and he has now retired 14 out of 15 batters he’s faced this year. Yusmeiro Petit finally got to enter a new inning with no inherited runners, and this time he completed it without anyone scoring. Jordan Weems made his season debut after being called up earlier today and served up a homer to former MVP Mookie Betts, but nothing more despite some loud outs.
One more encouraging sign came on defense, where there were more good plays than bad after some recent misadventures. DH Mitch Moreland was called into duty at first base, with Matt Olson sitting out for a knee contusion, and Moreland reminded everyone that he too once won a Gold Glove at the position.
This gem straight up saved two runs.
Look at Mitch Moreland making plays pic.twitter.com/MfIyGZxIlB— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) April 7, 2021
And that wasn’t even Moreland’s first highlight. The previous batter (Betts) hit a sharp grounder at him, with runners on the corners and one out, and he threw home to retire the runner at the plate. It was a good throw, and a good reception and tag by catcher Sean Murphy. Another run saved, as an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play is probably unlikely with Betts running.
However, Murphy did miss an opportunity a moment later. After reaching on that fielder’s choice, Betts attempted to steal second, and Murphy had the ball out of his hand in time to nail the runner by plenty. But he skipped the throw to second, and shortstop Elvis Andrus couldn’t quite pick it, applying what would have been a successful tag if there’d been anything in his glove. There was also another glimpse of mortal Matt Chapman, as the third baseman tried to barehand a high chopper but couldn’t snag it.
So where does that leave us? The A’s are 0-6, the club’s worst start to a season since the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, tied for the worst in franchise history.
On the other hand, did losing to Kershaw tell us anything we didn’t already know this morning? The lineup is cold this week. Were you expecting them to break out against Kershaw? Are you expecting it tomorrow against reigning Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, the newly minted highest-salaried player in baseball history? This offense might still get worse before it gets better, so, prepare yourself.
But the pitching settled down and allowed an acceptable amount of runs, and the defense finally contributed. We were hoping for a win, but at least it’s something.
The A’s will win a game eventually. But it was never going to happen until they began allowing fewer than eight or nine runs each night, and booting the ball all over the field on defense, and now they’ve at least achieved those things. One of the worst parts of the first five losses was the full-squad futility in every department, but that didn’t happen this time. It was just the hitting that was absent. Progress!
To put the standings into perspective, in the analogy of an extrapolated NFL campaign, we are now five minutes into the third quarter of the first game of the season. Still 156 baseball games left.