This game really had it all. Chris Smith pitched a quality start after completely imploding in the first, the A’s defense made a couple nice plays, the rookies looked solid...oh yeah, and the two teams combined to score 11 runs in the 8th inning. That too. Fortunately Oakland came out of the melee on top against the stinky Royals, denying them the second Wild Card slot.
Chris Smith’s Miraculous Recovery
Chris Smith started the game about as poorly as one can start a game. Walk, stolen base, HBP vs. Lorenzo Cain. Smith fell behind Eric Hosmer in the count and then gave up a double to right field (catchable for someone faster than Joyce, so…most right fielders), making it 2-0 Royals three batters into the game. Melky Cabrera singled to make it 3-0. It was really just a total mess and felt like it was going to just be one of “those games”.
But Smith righted the ship and ended up putting together a decent game...a quality start, one might even say. Granted, it was the kind of quality start that was only technically so - 3 runs in 5 1⁄3 innings pitched, hardly anything to write home about. But as Porcupine loves to remind us, it was Smith’s 4th QS in 6 starts this season. Not bad. After his disastrous 1st inning with 2 hits and 3 runs, Smith stopped the bleeding and gave up only 1 hit in his remaining 4 1⁄3 . He wasn’t overpowering anyone, and in fact he frequently wasn’t even really fooling anyone - for example, all three of his outs in the 4th inning were extremely loud outs that could have been extra base hits under other circumstances. But Smith also put together a stretch of eight batters in a row retired, so clearly he had something going. Whatever it was, he persevered and put together a decent start.
Innings 1-7: Mild Matts
Smith’s offense backed him up admirably, fueled primarily by the Matts. In the 1st, Matt Joyce made up for his lumbering defense in the top of the inning. He belted a home run on the second pitch he saw out to deep right field to make it 3-1. Then in the 2nd, Matt Olson turned on a pitch inside - maybe not even a strike - and hit a home run to right field which bounced off the top of the home run line. Is Olson adjusting? Should his bat speed no longer be measured in epochs? 3-2. With two outs, Boog Powell came about six inches from a home run of his own - instead he settled for getting stranded after a double. And in the 3rd, Lowrie flared a single to left field, then Khris khrushed a hanger to put the A’s on top 4-3. Quite a fast comeback! It was the third home run in three innings for Oakland. We witnessed a beautiful bunt single afterwards, but nothing else.
After Daniel Coulombe and Ryan Dull got Oakland through innings 6 and 7, they entered the 8th inning up 4-3...
Top of the 8th: Nightmare Fuel
I wrote about Chris Smith’s first start, where Santiago Casilla crushed all of our spirits in the 9th and denied Smith his well-earned first career win. And by golly, I get to write about our pathetic “closer” doing it again. Because he can just never EVER make things easy. At least he’s predictably bad - if there is a soul he can crush (in this case Chris Smith’s, again), you know what he’s going to do.
Casilla came in, and immediately the Royals get a runner (Alex Gordon) on board with a walk. Drew Butera hit a home run, because of course their other backup catcher did, and the Royals were back on top, 5-4. Lorenzo Cain singled before Melvin pulled Casilla in favor of Blake Treinen…who promptly gave up a home run to Eric Hosmer and make it 7-4 Royals. Then Moustakas absolutely annihilated a changeup dead-center to really drive it home how terrible our bullpen is. 8-4. Three home runs in the 8th inning for a team that really does not hit home runs (except Moustakas…he immediately deals heavily in dongs these days). Santiago denied Smith again. That’s game, right?
Bottom of the 8th: Further Matts
Bless these Matts. The A’s decided to make it interesting versus Joakim Soria. Another double for Lowrie, this one a rocket under the first baseman’s glove. Khris Davis singled, then Ryon Healy hit a very well-hit single to make it 8-5 (since everyone had to make sure it wasn’t caught). Matt Olson hit a single of his own and it was 8-6, with two runners on and still no outs - four consecutive hits! Matt Chapman struck out for the first out of the inning (a rare instance of Matt failure). Mike Minor replaced Joakim Soria, and after a wild pitch that put runners on second and third, struck out Chad Pinder.
Rajai Davis came in to pinch hit - a call I actually really liked, since even an infield single would be pivotal. Fortunately, it wasn’t needed - after falling behind in the count 2-0, the Royals opted to intentionally walk Rajai (?) to load the bases for Matt Joyce. They walked into the wrong Matt. Joyce pounced on the predictable fastball away, and while it wasn’t quite enough for a grand slam, a bases-clearing double is pretty nice too. The A’s had put up 5 to match the Royals’ 5 and were back on top, 9-8. And Oakland’s offense wasn’t done. Marcus Semien got his second hit of the night, and it was just enough to get Joyce home, securing an insurance run to make it 10-8. While I’m highlighting the Matts here, the beauty of the 8th is that it was such a team effort (I suppose any times 6 runs are scored it is, but still) and that it was done with no home runs.
Treinen closed out the 9th, and while it wasn’t easy (swinging bunt single, etc.), it worked. Oakland wins 10-8. Chris Smith is still hunting for that first win as a starter. But at least we beat the freaking Royals in pretty much the most painful, dramatic way possible.