It's starting to look like a familiar pattern: First, the A's take a slim lead, one or two runs, in the first few innings. Then the wheels fall off, and a starter gives up anywhere between three and six runs at some point in the middle of the game. Oakland usually makes some last-ditch offensive attempt at a comeback, but falls well short.
True to form, that's exactly what happened today. In front of more than 30,000 on a sun-soaked day at the Coliseum, things were looking good in the early going. The A's honored the 1973 World Series championship team before the game, with each current A's starter accompanying that year's starter to their positions, and 10,000 early-arriving fans received Reggie Jackson bobbleheads as a reward.
But the A's couldn't make it happen for the boisterous crowd, and have now lost eight of their last nine games, and three consecutive series to Tampa Bay, Boston, and now Baltimore.
Fitting in perfectly with the above pattern, the A's struck first — Brandon Moss scored on a Josh Donaldson double in the 2nd inning, giving the A's the early edge.
In the 3rd, Donaldson got the second of his four hits on the day on a ball that Orioles starter Chris Tillman deflected. Seth Smith took Mike Gallego's risky advice and scored from second on the infield single, and the A's were up 2-0.
A.J. Griffin was solid for most of the game, but fell victim to two home runs in the 4th inning off the bats of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, giving Baltimore a 4-2 lead. He settled back down, and didn't allow the Orioles to score again, leaving the game after the 7th inning having given up five hits, four earned runs, two walks, and striking out seven.
Nobody scored again until the 8th inning, when the Orioles broke through again for two runs on a Nate McLouth solo bomb to right field off of Jerry Blevins. That was followed by a Manny Machado double and a Markakis single, giving Baltimore a 6-2 lead.
The A's countered with a run of their own in the 8th, when Brandon Moss made it home on Josh Reddick's RBI sac fly. The Baltimore lead stood at 6-3 going into the 9th inning, and they added one more in the 9th off of Chris Resop.
Baltimore got one back in the top of the 9th off of Chris Resop on a Nate McLouth single that scored J.J. Hardy, leaving the A's with a deficit of four runs.
The A's actually managed to give themselves a shot in the bottom of the 9th. The Oakland rally started with Adam Rosales getting hit in the brim of his helmet by a Pedro Strop fastball. It was a scary moment, but Rosales shook it off and stayed in the game. Coco Crisp drew a walk, joining Rosales on the base paths and driving Strop out of the game, to be replaced by Jim Johnson.
John Jaso singled on a line drive to left field, loading the bases — Rosales probably could have scored on the play, but Gallego wisely decided to be conservative down by four runs and with none out.
The A's couldn't capitalize, though. Seth Smith, who representing the tying run, flew out to left field and Jed Lowrie grounded into 6-4-3 a double play, ending the game.
The Orioles have now taken the first three games of this four game series in Oakland, especially disappointing for the A's given that two of those games were very winnable.
Despite the loss, it was great to see Donaldson come through with such a huge offensive performance. He was 4-for-4 with two RBIs.
Griffin also looked pretty good, if you ignore the 4th inning. He faced only one over the minimum through three innings and settled down nicely after giving up four runs in the fourth.
Biggest takeaway: it's going to be great to get Cespedes back. He just changes the dynamic of this team completely, and the A's really need a cure for their present offensive anemia. Hopefully he'll be in the lineup tomorrow as the A's try to salvage Game 4. The A's offense has looked stagnant at best without Yoenis, and inserting him back into the lineup, likely in the cleanup spot, should be a huge boost.
The A's will do it again tomorrow at 1:05 PM at the Coliseum. Oakland's unexpected yet de facto ace, Bartolo Colon, will take the hill, while Baltimore will send out Miguel Gonzalez. Bartolo is 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA this year. If he and Yoenis can't prevent the A's from getting swept in four games at home, Oakland's probably in trouble. Nico will be your host.