Devastating losses are, well, devastating, especially in the heat of a pennant race when every game counts for so much. But in reality they are more devastating for fans than they are for players, who are wired to move on and bounce back.
Yesterday’s loss was one of those good old-fashioned crushers, and while I wanted to concede the season at the exact moment that Lamont Wade Jr’s drive hit the bleachers, in reality it was just a low point in the ebb and flow that is a long season.
Was there a loss so far this season, for any big league team, more deflating than the “Field of Dreams” game in which the Yankees dramatically took the lead only to serve up a walk-off in the bottom half — just the latest of several improbable, soul-crushing last at bat losses the Yankees have surrendered?
Well the Yankees have not lost since, piling up 9 wins in a row and seizing control of the first wild-card by two games over Oakland. May my soul be crushed like that.
Two games in the A’s 2012 season standout as ebbs in what proved to be a truly magical season. In June, against these very Giants, Brandon Hicks came within an eyelash of tying the game with two outs in the ninth but had the tying run stalled at 3rd when his drive bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. The A’s then nearly won the game on a bloop to right field that couldn’t quite elude the second baseman as the Giants held on for a 9-8 win. AJ Griffin made his big league debut the next day, Derek Norris hit an improbable walk-off 3-run HR off of Santiago Casilla, and the A’s bounced back to start their charge towards an AL West crown.
Fast forward to September 22nd of 2012 when Ken Korach’s favorite phrase, “So much riding on every pitch!” could not apply more. Pedro Figueroa, who is probably mostly remembered for this one outing, could not hold a 4-run lead against the Yankees in the bottom of the 13th and the A’s wound up losing 10-9 on a Brandon Moss E3 in the bottom of the 14th.
How did the A’s respond to that backbreaker in the 151st game of the regular season? They finished the season I going 9-2, reeling off 6 straight wins to end the campaign, the last 3 against the Texas Rangers as Oakland dramatically took the division by 1 game over Texas.
All of which is to acknowledge that yesterday’s loss, which happened to drop the A’s 3.5 games out of first place and 2 back of the first wild-card, was crushing to fans and inconvenient to the players. There is still a lot of baseball left to be played, and knowing the baseball gods Saturday’s loss to the Giants won’t even be the worst one down the stretch — and the A’s aren’t nearly done fighting for a spot in the postseason.
That being said, a good time to reel off a 9-game winning streak, or a 9-2 stretch, would be right about now. A.J. Puk looks as nasty, and confident, as he ever has and should probably be leveraged more down the stretch out of the bullpen. Obviously the team needs to hit better with RISP, but there isn’t a whole lot of strategy to that other than “please do it”.
Time to get hot, maybe a little lucky, definitely a whole lot resilient. 5.5 more weeks of ebb-and-flow torture with so much riding on every pitch — and away we go.