It was as frustrating a loss as ever there was. The A’s blew an early lead, and a late lead, the latter with two outs and two strikes in the ninth. A pinch-hit, walk-off homer in the eleventh, courtesy of journeyman catcher Chris Herrmann, finally punished the A’s profligacy. With the Yankees’ win, the A’s fall further back in the race to host the AL Wild Card game.
If you’re into pitching, this wasn’t your game as the A’s and Mariners combined for 30 hits. Mariners’ starter Mike Leake lasted just an inning and a third, and Brett Anderson didn’t make it much further, pitching 2.1 innings of seven-hit, five-run baseball.
The game actually started quite well for Leake. He retired the first two A’s in order, and appeared to be breezing through the first. But just as quickly as the inning seemed headed toward its conclusion, the A’s strung together four singles and took a 3-0 lead.
The lead would be short lived, however. Brett Anderson struggled through two-plus innings; it was apparent he didn’t have his best stuff right from the outset. After giving up hits to the first two batters, Nelson Cruz annihilated a change-up and tied the game at three.
But the A’s struck right back. Singles in succession from Chad Pinder and Jonathan Lucroy to lead off the second set the table for Nick Martini, who promptly tripled. Martini would score two batters later on Jed Lowrie’s single.
But the Mariners weren’t done either. A pair of hits led to a run in their half of the second, and Jean Segura took Anderson deep an inning later. Liam Hendriks put out the fire in the third, impressively so after coming in with two on and one out, but the lead had been cut to one.
After a quiet fourth, the A’s got back to their offensive ways, scoring once in both the fifth and sixth. Marcus Semien, the only starter without a hit last night, took his revenge with a solo homer, and Matt Olson doubled home Nick Martini to run the lead back to three. The A’s caught a bit of a bad break actually, Olson’s double probably would have scored Matt Chapman too had it not bounded over the wall in left-center.
Things began to get dicey in the eighth; Fernando Rodney struggled about as much as we’ve seen since he’s been in an A’s uniform. After two solid innings from Yusmeiro Petit and Shawn Kelley, Rodney walked the leadoff hitter, Ryon Healy, and then advanced Healy to third on two wild pitches. Rodney then walked former Cubs farmhand Dan Vogelbach, and both Healy and Vogelbach’s pinch runner scored on a double from Denard Span.
With Span on second and one out, Dee Gordon bailed Rodney out with an absolutely awful at bat. Despite Rodney clearly struggling with his command, Gordon swung at a borderline first pitch and popped up weakly to Matt Chapman. Rodney then buckled down and struck out Haniger to end the threat.
Come the ninth, it appeared to be business as usual for Blake Treinen. Matt Chapman made a terrific play to open the inning, cutting down Segura on a softly hit chopper. Treinen took just one pitch to retire Robinson Cano, and had Nelson Cruz buried in an 0-2 count. Down though he was, Cruz proved he wasn’t out, singling to right field.
Despite Cruz’s single, the A’s seemed to primed to record a fitting ending with Ryon Healy walking to the plate. Ryon is a likeable player, but it’s hard not to look at him and think of how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. Just as when Cruz was down 0-2, the game came frustratingly close to ending. Healy hit a ball to Chapman’s left that Chappie fielded comfortably. We’ve seen him make the same play a hundred times. Chappie, however, either couldn’t get the ball out of his glove or couldn’t decide whether to go to first or second. In the end, he did neither. Kyle Seager singled a batter later, tying the game.
In the bottom of the tenth, Denard Span, whose double in the eighth cut the lead from three to one, doubled again, this time on a dying quail that dropped into shallow left field about five feet from foul territory.
With Emilio Pagan on the mound, the reliever the Mariners traded for Ryon Healy, the ending that seemed so fitting an inning earlier looked as though it was going to be flipped on its head. But Dee Gordon botched another clutch situation, popping a bunt down the third base line that Chapman caught on a dive. The tenth concluded loudly (and frighteningly) as Jean Segura hit a ball on the screws that Ramon Laureano chased down at the base of the warning track in center field.
The eleventh, however, proved that Pagan and the A’s fate was merely delayed. With one out and a runner on first, Scott Servais decided to pinch hit for his catcher, Austin Romine, who has a career wRC+ of 63. The pinch hitter he chose, another catcher, Chris Herrmann, sports a career 67 wRC+ line.
It worked. On the second pitch of the at bat, Herrmann hit a no doubt bomb to right field.
With four to play, the A’s are officially eliminated from the AL West race, and fall 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the first Wild Card spot, with the Yankees holding the tie breaker. The loss also ends the A’s impressive “when leading after ____” streak.
It’s quite possible we look back upon this in a week’s time as a turning point that freed the coaching staff to rest the bullpen ahead of the Wild Card game. That’s the hope anyway. Right now, this one stings.