Despite looking quite lively in Game 1 of the doubleheader, the A’s offense had nothing left to spare for the night game. Maybe it was the fact that they gave two of their best hitters the night off. Maybe they got sleepy after the long Adrian Beltre pre-game ceremony. Maybe Adrian Sampson is actually really good?
Neh. Most likely, the A’s lineup is just doing what they’ve done all season: squandering their chances against mediocre pitchers. Besides homers, the A’s rank right around the middle of the American League for the most important offensive categories. That showed tonight when all the offense they could squeeze out was a solo homer from Mark Canha.
At that point in the game — 4th inning, 1 out — the A’s were looking strong. Chris Bassitt was rolling, hits weren’t falling for the Rangers, and Canha was in Sampson’s head. Although he didn’t do his trademark bat flip, Canha took a long stare at his homer before dropping his bat slow-motion as he started his trot. This prompted Sampson to shout something at Canha and gesture toward first base, signaling that he should get moving. A bit much for a pitcher with only 19 games under his belt, but in the moment, I thought it was great for the A’s. The team’s up 1-0 and the Rangers’ starter is already having a mental breakdown. We got this in the bag.
Boy, was I wrong. Sampson ended up with a complete game win and Canha, and seemingly the whole team, never got on base again.
On the bright side, Bassitt looked a bit better than he did in his previous three outings. Though his command was still lacking, he was getting good pitches when he needed them. In fact, the only runs scored off of him were due to a soft single following a first-to-third hit-and-run, a sacrifice fly, and a just-missed catch off the glove of Ramon Laureano. That last one hurt most as a successful catch would’ve given Bassitt the quality start and a stronger chance at a win.
Instead, Liam Hendriks had to finish the inning, with Wei-Chung Wang closing out the game. Both pitched tremendously, combining for 4 strikeouts and 0 baserunners. Hendriks looked especially nasty, throwing strike after strike to seemingly perplexed Rangers batters. And he did it with the alpha Aussie confidence that only Hendriks has.
Unfortunately, despite the bullpen giving them a chance, the A’s never got back in it and they won’t come out of this series ahead of Texas in the standings. Tomorrow, the team will look to tie it up. Tonight, they go night-night.
P.S. to A’s front office: Pick up Nick Kingham! He’s a flyball pitcher who’s a former top-100 prospect that can immediately slot into the A’s rotation. He hasn’t performed at the major league level yet, but he’s much more worthy of a chance than Aaron Brooks was. And he can probably be had for almost nothing!