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Game #8: A’s stay close but lose 4-1

Never made their big move, but never fell too far behind

Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

That was more what we expected from a rebuilding roster, and it still wasn’t that bad.

The Oakland A’s lost 4-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, opening a series at the Rogers Centre.

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

Coming off a strong first week of the season, the A’s never quite found the big plays they needed in this one. They trailed from the 1st inning onward, missing out on a few scoring opportunities of their own. But they also never let it completely get away, stopping the Jays from building their lead, and they kept it close and interesting until the final out.

It could have been better, but it seemed like it should have been much worse. Toronto was in control all evening, and somehow they only won by three. That’s a credit to Oakland sticking with it and battling to the end.

Pitchers hold serve

The Blue Jays lineup is stacked with stars, but the A’s pitching staff didn’t back down. Starter Daulton Jefferies didn’t make it out of the 5th inning, but he only allowed two runs. Nobody in the bullpen was dominant, and most of them needed to be bailed out mid-inning, but none of them completely melted down and everybody earned a big out somewhere along the way. The team effort limited the tough opponent to just four runs all night.

Toronto set the tone immediately in the 1st inning, as Vladimir Guerrero Jr obliterated a solo homer. They went on to put Jefferies in trouble in each of the next four frames, but he worked his way out each time, with just one more run finding its way home in the 2nd inning.

  • Jefferies: 4⅓ ip, 2 runs, 2 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 7 hits, 68 pitches

There was a lot of hard contact and that line could have been much worse, but he gutted through it. He also helped himself out with athletic defense, covering first base on a couple plays.

A parade of relievers followed, offering an array of mixed bags that all added up to more than the sum of their parts:

  • Justin Grimm threw two pitches to get the final two outs of the 5th, retiring Guerrero and then picking off a runner at first base. But then he let the first two runners reach base in the 6th, and fortunately ...
  • Sam Moll mostly bailed him out, promptly inducing a double play. He did allow an RBI single after that, but the damage was minimized.
  • Zach Jackson got knocked around in the 7th, letting four of his five batters reach base, but only one run scored. With the bases loaded and one out, he gave way to ...
  • Adam Kolarek, who quickly got a strikeout and comeback grounder to escape the jam. But then in the 8th he pegged a batter, so they turned to ...
  • Jacob Lemoine, who retired both batters he faced.

Nobody dominated, but they all kept the line moving. There were several moments where they didn’t quite make the big pitch or get the big defensive play behind them, but there were also several moments when they didn’t let the other team notch the key hit to sink the dagger. Limit the Jays to four runs and you’ve done well, and given yourself a chance in the game.

Final line for Matt Chapman, in his first appearance against his old team: 0-for-2 with two walks.

No offense

Unfortunately, the A’s lineup never got anything going themselves. They only had six hits, they didn’t draw a walk, and there wasn’t that much hard contact behind all the outs.

They did finally scratch out a run in the 6th. Singles by Tony Kemp and Sean Murphy set it up, and Chad Pinder drilled a sharp grounder up the middle for an RBI single. It would have been a double play, but the pitcher deflected it with his glove, a little piece of good luck for Oakland.

That rally would have been their prime chance to mount a comeback, but they couldn’t build it further as the next two batters were retired to end the threat. One of those batters was Stephen Vogt, selected as a pinch-hitter for the DH, which seemed like an odd choice since he hasn’t been a good hitter since 2019.

The bright spot in the lineup was third baseman Kevin Smith. He’s off to a slow start, batting 1-for-19 entering the day, but he doubled and singled in his first two at-bats. Both hits came on monster triple-digit exit velocities, and the double was a gapper that reached the wall on one hop.

Replay still drunk

They have to be trying to get this wrong. Nobody is this incompetent.

There were two replay reviews. Both of them were botched. But each team got the benefit once so it all evened out, and really Toronto might have taken the worst of it.

In the bottom of the 4th, with the leadoff runner on first base, the A’s tried to turn a double play. They didn’t quite get it, as the batter beat out the throw to first, but it was close so they asked for replay. Upon review the runner still appeared probably safe, but the umps overturned it anyway and gave Oakland the second out. Thanks, I guess?

The next batter lined a double into the corner, which would have scored the runner from first. This incorrect replay review probably cost the Jays a run.

In the top of the 5th, with Smith on first base and two outs, the A’s hit a grounder and Toronto got the force out at second to end the inning. But it was an awkward play and it was close, so they asked for replay. Upon review the fielder clearly never touched the base with his foot, just blatantly missed it in the heat of the moment, but the umps let the call stand anyway. Seriously?

If overturned, Oakland would have had another crack at a rally with two on, two outs, and Kemp up. Maybe they turn that into something. But for what it’s worth, Kemp led off the next inning with a hit and they scored then instead, so this might just have been a matter of whether their lone run came in the 5th or the 6th.

The year is 2022, and replay review in baseball is still a complete embarrassment.

Ho hum

There will be days like this over the next six months. The A’s ragtag roster got outplayed. But they didn’t get routed, their pitchers didn’t get annihilated, and their lineup didn’t get shut out. They didn’t embarrass themselves like the replay review officials did. Just a routine close loss, and that’s not the worst that can happen in a rebuilding season.