Talk about throwing away a game.
The Oakland A’s uncorked five wild pitches Friday night, tying their franchise record, and in the process they handed the winning run to the Seattle Mariners in a 4-3 defeat at T-Mobile Park.
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The game was tied entering the 7th inning, and it’s baffling that it ended the way it did. In the top half the A’s loaded the bases but struck out to strand them, and then in the bottom half the Mariners did almost nothing but somehow scored.
With two outs on the board, Dylan Moore barely made contact and hit a dribbler toward second base. But he hit it so weakly that it was basically a hard bunt, and Tony Kemp only had time to attempt a glove flip to first base. Kemp nearly nailed it, but his feed to Matt Olson hung in the air slightly too long and Moore beat it to the bag for an infield single.
Two pitches later, Moore stole second.
On the next offering, Jake Diekman threw a wild pitch way outside past catcher Sean Murphy, and Moore moved up to third.
On the next offering, Diekman threw another wild pitch in the dirt past Murphy, and Moore scored.
That's one way to do it. pic.twitter.com/hUWVwfKgft— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 24, 2021
That was the difference in the game. It was tied, then the A’s gift-wrapped that run, and then nobody scored again and Seattle won.
The five wild pitches are an Oakland record, reports official scorer David Feldman, and they tie the franchise record dating back to Philadelphia. I don’t know if this is at all relevant, but while batting in the top of the 7th, Murphy was hit by a pitch squarely in his left (glove) hand. Four of the five wild pitches came after that HBP, including three by Diekman a few minutes later in the bottom of that very 7th inning.
How we got there
What about the first six innings leading up to that wild 7th?
A’s starter Frankie Montas was mostly excellent. He fanned 10 of the 23 batters he faced, and despite some hard contact he allowed only four hits. Unfortunately, two of those hits were homers in the 2nd inning, and he issued his only walk right before them, so the whole package was good for three total runs. It’s all they got against him, but it took Oakland the next hour to match it with their own bats.
- Montas: 6 ip, 3 runs, 10 K, 1 BB, 2 HR, 4 hits, 102 pitches, 97.2 mph EV
That’s another quality start, his third in a row, and that line will win you some games. Just not tonight.
The green-and-gold did catch up, though. In the 3rd inning, Matt Chapman hit a solo homer.
We have liftoff @mattchap6 | #RiseAndGrind pic.twitter.com/ow4J47huQU— Oakland A's (@Athletics) July 24, 2021
The previous inning had ended with Chapman in the box and Ramon Laureano getting caught trying to steal, providing a classic what-if regarding whether it could have been a two-run dinger. But either way, I for one would like to see this lineup try more small-ball, and that includes seeing the A’s and specifically Laureano run more often. Sometimes you get caught, but I liked the attempt and it was a reasonable spot to pick (already two outs, might as well try to get into scoring position).
In the 4th inning it was the other Matt, as Olson went yard.
You know the drill...@mattolson21 | #RiseAndGrind pic.twitter.com/hweKstbx1r— Oakland A's (@Athletics) July 24, 2021
Oakland tied it up in the 5th, and if we’re being honest this run was handed to them every bit as much as the Wild Pitch Party in the 7th.
The A’s got a runner on base in the 5th and grounded into what should have been an inning-ending double play. But Seattle’s infielder juggled the transfer at second base and couldn’t complete the turn, allowing Jacob Wilson to reach first safely. Mark Canha then doubled, sending Wilson all the way around to the plate, where the ball beat him by a mile but the catcher clanked it. Safe!
Hear us out... the bats are... Kraken. pic.twitter.com/oqfw2iXMUF— Oakland A's (@Athletics) July 24, 2021
I tend to favor aggressively waving the runner around third base, especially when there are already two outs on the board. I think we underestimate the difficulty of an outfielder throwing out a runner at the plate, and the ease with which just one part of the play can go wrong — like a throw just a couple feet up the line, or in this case short-hopping the catcher while he tries to dig it with that chunky glove. But holy crap, what was 3B coach Mark Kotsay doing there? That was an awful send, bailed out only by an absolute miracle.
This camera angle makes it look like a video game pic.twitter.com/lWY5L1iTPx— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 24, 2021
That’s a gift-wrapped run. Wilson only reached base at all because Seattle bricked a double play that should have ended the inning, and he scored because Seattle bricked what should have been an easy out at the plate. But the A’s were nice enough to return the favor in the 7th, with those back-to-back wild pitches by Diekman. And also it was the first run scored of Wilson’s MLB career, after missing out on the chance a few days ago!
Juuuuust a bit outside
That was another frustrating one-run loss. If it makes you feel better, even without Diekman’s wild pitches the A’s might not have scored again the rest of the night anyway, so Seattle would have walked it off eventually somehow. Oakland struck out 18 times. Just wasn’t their night at the plate, and perhaps they did well to tie it up at all.
Actually, here’s a better golden lining. Both teams hit two homers. Both teams got double-digit strikeouts from their quality starters. Both teams made some whoopsies that gifted each other one free run apiece. But the play right before Seattle’s first homer was a walk, and the play right before Oakland’s first homer was a caught stealing, and that was the real difference in the game. That doesn’t even qualify as a bad hop, more like a sequencing quirk.
But that’s the way one-run games go, which is why it’s nice to take big leads and win by more than one. The loss counts, but the A’s didn’t play badly, they just came up one play short like so many times in the past five weeks.
First time Jake Diekman has ever thrown three wild pitches in an outing. Had only throw multiple in one game once with two on Aug. 25, 2018 while a member of the D-backs.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) July 24, 2021