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Game #123: Vogt and Jaso home runs not enough as Athletics lose to Braves 4-3

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The line score may show five hits for the Athletics tonight, but that fails to reveal the amount of hard hit contact tonight that should give Athletics fans hope to turn things around soon.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics dropped their fourth game in a row by losing to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field by the score of four to three. Sonny Gray takes the loss after the Braves dinked and dunked and dribbled their way to all four runs off of him, save a run-scoring double by Freddie Freeman down the first base line. Atlanta's Julio Teheran gets the W, but allowed enormous amounts of hard hit contact that just kept finding gloves.

The Athletics fall into second place in the AL West by percentage points, with the Angels at 72-49 and the Athletics at 73-50.

Atlanta's two-run first

Phil Gosselin reached on a base hit, and Freddie Freeman score him on a double down the right field line that likely got past Stephen Vogt because his momentum was moving him to his right after holding Gosselin at first. Chris Johnson scored Freeman with a little two-out bloop single to give the Braves a 2-0 lead after one.

Picked off a second time

Like last night, the Athletics found themselves with yet another runner picked off, this time Josh Reddick found himself fooled by what was perhaps a little illegal knee-buckling action from Braves starter Julio Teheran.

Bob Melvin was displeased.

Sonny Gray worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the second.

Oh no that third inning

Eric Sogard doubled to lead off the third, and Sonny Gray successfully bunted Sogard to third. The play to Coco Crisp, of course, is to do literally anything other than pop out. Coco Crisp bunt popped out for the second out, and John Jaso grounded out to Freddie Freeman at first. Fortunately, this was the low point of the game.

Fourth batter scores

In the top of the fourth, Josh Reddick hit a laser that Freddie Freeman speared to end the potential threat of Brandon Moss at first base. I recall remarking that the way the A's had been working counts to that point and how hard the balls we had been hit, if the A's were in a reverse position, we would be hoping Bob Melvin was recognizing that our pitcher was giving up a lot of hard contact.

In the bottom of the fourth, Justin Upton dropped in a single, as did Chris Johnson. Andrelton Simmons singled in a row, but the A's did well to limit the damage to that third run.

An encouraging sixth

Julio Teheran took 72 pitches through five innings, but he would barely get out of the sixth. John Jaso flew out to center, Josh Donaldson worked a 6-pitch pop out to Freddie Freeman, and Brandon Moss worked a 6-pitch walk as Stephen Vogt came to the plate. Vogt too worked the count full and belted the seventh pitch of his plate appearance to deep right standard just a foot beyond the reach of center fielder B.J. Upton to close the deficit to 3-2 Braves.

Josh Reddick was the last out of the inning, but he worked an 8-pitch plate appearance flying out to right field to knock Julio Teheran out of the game after a 31-pitch sixth inning.

Unfortunately, Sonny Gray allowed another run to squeeze past when Justin Upton scored from first on a hit-and-run single by Chris Johnson. After striking out Evan Gattis, Andrelton Simmons also singled and Johnson was only held at third by Josh Reddick's strong arm. Dan Otero relieved Gray, and groundball Dan-O forced B.J. Upton to ground into a double play to Alberto Callaspo who stepped on the second base bag and threw quickly to first to nab the speedy Upton by a half-step. The A's looked hopeful down 4-2 and headed to the seventh inning.

7-8-9

In the seventh, David Carpenter relieved Julio Teheran and retired Alberto Callaspo, Eric Sogard, and Sam Fuld one-two-three. Fernando Abad relieved Dan Otero in the seventh and got two quick strikeouts against Emilio Bonifacio and Jason Heyward. However, he had to be rescued by Ryan Cook in the seventh to get the final out after allowing a single to Phil Gosselin and a walk to Freddie Freeman. Gosselin also earned his first career Major League stolen base.

In the eighth, John Jaso made some noise for the Athletics by knocking Jordan Walden's pitch to deep left center despite Walden somehow being allowed to hop off the pitcher's plate and then release the ball. As a reminder, here is how Official Baseball Rule 2.00 defines an "illegal pitch":

An ILLEGAL PITCH is (1) a pitch delievered to the batter when the pitcher does not have his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher's plate; (2) a quick return pitch. An illegal pitch when runners are on base is a balk.

The penalty for an illegal pitch when the bases are unoccupied are established in Rule 8.01(d):

If the pitcher makes an illegal pitch with the bases unoccupied, it shall be called a ball unless the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter or otherwise.

Athletics radio broadcaster Vince Cotroneo noted that in his talk with Bob Melvin before the game, Melvin was informed that Walden's delivery was "grandfathered in." Having to be in contact with the pitcher's plate when delivering a pitch feels like has been a basic rule for the legal delivery of a pitch for sometime though.

The A's even showed enormous life against closer Craig Kimbrel, with Josh Reddick coming just feet from hitting an opposite field home run, and Eric Sogard hitting a hard hit ball right at right fielder Jason Heyward.

In the bottom of the eighth, Ryan Cook worked a 1-2-3 inning ended by an extremely impressive play deep in the hole by shortstop Eric Sogard, helped a bit by Stephen Vogt digging the ball out of the dirt to retire Andrelton Simmons:

Craig Kimbrel was given the ball for the top of the ninth inning. The four-time All-Star nearly blew his save on his second pitch to Josh Reddick, who came just a foot short of an opposite field home run to tie the game. Alberto Callaspo then turned an 0-2 count into a walk, and Andy Parrino came in to pinch run as the tying run. Eric Sogard also worked the count full, and made solid contact, but this time it was hit too hard to a waiting Jason Heyward. Derek Norris was the last hope, but it was not to be as he popped out to Chris Johnson in foul territory to end the game, the Braves defeating the Athletics 4-3.

I feel positive

After the first three innings, I felt like the team was playing more like it did not deserve to lose this one. They were patient at the plate yet driving balls that came, just to exactly the wrong places. The A's drew five walks tonight, and they will only get better as players on the disabled list begin to come back in as the rest of the month progresses, followed by roster expansion to bolster our bullpen.

Tomorrow, the Athletics play Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN with a 5:05 PM start. Two left-handers oppose each other with Jon Lester facing Atlanta's Mike Minor.