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Game #158: A’s Unravel in 4th Again

For the second night in a row, the Angels batted around the order in the 4th. At least we got to see Sonny for a minute. Angels win 8-6.

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It’s my final recap of the season and I almost forgot that Sonny started this game, given how long it felt. The 4th inning, especially, was eternal. All the better to preserve a fun season of doing recaps on AN, despite the on-the-field play we were tasked with watching.

Anyway, let’s talk about the good, or at least decent, stuff first.

A Hint of Sonny

The game actually started quite promisingly on both sides of the ball.

Sonny’s only inning was a mixed bag, but that doesn’t really matter. Above all else, it was just a pleasure to see our ace pitch one last time in the 2016 season. He gave up a leadoff single to Kole Calhoun but stranded him at first. He got an out on a very, very deep fly ball to Mike Trout, but he also struck out last night’s hero, Jefry Marte, on a great outside cutter.

In a way, it was a perfect encapsulation of Sonny’s 2016 season: flashes of brilliance to go hand in hand with moments of nail-biting.

Early Runs

Sonny actually took the mound with a 2-run lead. Vogt and Healy tagged Angels pitcher Alex Meyer early with back to back doubles. Vogt’s came immediately after fouling a pitch off of Curt Young - I imagine it feels good for him to have someone else be on the bad end of a foul ball. Healy’s double was legitimately, like, 6 inches from being an opposite field home run. Fortunately, Yonder Alonso scored him anyway with a single to right field, and Kole Calhoun ensured the run by clanking the ball.

The A’s had other opportunities early in the game and easily could have made it 4-0. In the 2nd inning, Bruce Maxwell was stranded after hitting a triple. And in the 3rd, Healy hit another double off the right field wall, again just short of a home run - this time, though, the A’s would not get him home. Both runners would be stranded after the batter behind them struck out.

While that wouldn’t be it for the A’s offense, those two lost runs ended up being a deciding factor in the game.

4th Inning Roundabout

The Angels got an absolute boatload of hits in the 4th. I couldn’t even keep up with it all in my notes. I’m not going to describe the sequence, but this is basically what they did to Ross Detwiler to take a 6-2 lead:

This being the 2016 A’s, the Angels were aided by plenty of bad defense (in addition to a Healy error in the 2nd that I’ll skip for brevity):

-A terrible throw from Valencia toward, but not to, home plate.

-Smolinski and Valencia both went for a line drive in no-man’s land and both called for the ball. Smolinski ultimately got a glove on it but couldn’t make the catch while avoiding a collision - it’s hard to say who is at fault, if anyone, but it was ugly.

-The runs to make it 4-2 were leisurely thanks to Khris Davis’s arm. Yay outfield arms!

-On that same play, after the two runs crossed the plate, Bruce Maxwell made an ill-advised throw to second base to try to get Shane Robinson. Robinson was trapped between second and third and Maxwell chose the wrong base to throw to, essentially yielding third. He just had to run up the third base line to have Robinson trapped but he tried to be quick and botched the play.

And the inning continued. Chris Smith came in to try to get the final out of the inning and promptly walked two batters to bring in yet another run. And just for the hell of it, we got one more bad defensive play. It was an error by Maxwell - after picking up a weak cue shot that was potentially going foul, he fumbled the ball instead of getting the out at first and allowed everyone to advance safely. All told, 14 Angels batted in the inning and they put 8 runs on the board.

That would be it for the Angels offense, and that’s all they would need. Somehow Chris Smith would pitch a couple of scoreless innings (with 2 more walks) and Daniel Coulombe continued to look pretty decent. John Axford nailed Mike Trout in the shoulder with a terrible pitch and Trout had to leave the game. With the exception of Coulombe and Gray, A’s pitching today was bad, bad, bad.

Dongs for Good Measure

While it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit, the A’s brought the game from 8-2 to 8-6 thanks to a couple of home runs.

The first was a landmark - Khris Davis hit his 41st home run of the year to notch his first 100 RBI season of his career. It was a beautiful blast to left center, so of course I inexplicably can’t find video of it on the MLB site. Instead, here’s Semien’s 3-run blast in the 8th:

Both home runs were incredibly satisfying for their own reasons. Obviously, it’s great to see Davis hit the milestone we’ve all been rooting for for weeks now - one less thing for him to stress about the last few days of the season. And for Semien, it was nice to see a home run, period. Our shortstop has worked himself to the bone this season and seems to be losing steam, so it’s nice to see one more blast for old time’s sake.

So this was a game that highlights the team’s challenges and strengths for the future: A rotation with a great deal of potential, but also a lot of volatility (which hopefully will not feature Ross Detwiler next season). An offense that is decent (thanks largely to Our Savior Ryon Healy), but could do more. And woefully bad defense...with no real upside until Barreto/Chapman make it, barring some offseason acquisitions.

We’ve got one final series against the Mariners for the final 4 days of the season. Let’s hope someone on the team can Cotton on to spoiler duties.