I liked it a lot more when Josh Willingham was hitting no doubt home runs FOR the A’s last year. This walk off piece business AGAINST the A’s kinda has me down. This was the kind of loss that crushes a team’s morale. We really should have been celebrating a shut out win against a really bad Twins team, but Brian Fuentes had other sinister plans. This was a game that the Twins were begging the A’s to take by the throat. Twins pitchers handed out 9 bases on balls and gave up 7 hits, that’s 16 base runners and 2 measly runs scored, I know the A’s struggle in RISP situations but my goodness that is pitiful. The Athletics can pretty much forget about the Texas Rangers, because barring a “Major League” like miracle run to the division title, that ship has sailed. They need to seriously worry about those pesky Seattle Mariners who are just 1 game behind the A’s now, the pessimist inside me assumes the A’s will be tied for last place in the AL West by this time tomorrow.
TURNING POINT: The obvious choice would be the bottom of the 9th inning when Josh Willingham sent the Twins fans home happy, but there were so many chances the A’s had to put this game away, or at least give themselves some breathing room. They failed miserably in those situations. The top of the 9th turned out to be the most crucial of those situations. Three walks should have gotten the A’s a bases loaded situation with Brandon Inge at the plate with 1 out, instead Collin Cowgill was thrown out at 3rd stealing for out number 2. Brandon Inge was subsequently owned by Glen Perkins on 3 nasty sliders and the A’s were tasked with trying to make a 2 run lead stick in the bottom of the inning. It didn’t, and the back breaking loss was dealt.
ON THE HILL: Lost in the mass hysteria of this loss was the fact that Jarrod Parker had another fairly solid outing. His control is still not anywhere near where it needs to be, but he managed to shut out the Twins for 6 strong innings while giving up 4 hits, walking 4, and striking out 4. We would have been in line for the win had the 9th inning been cancelled or something. Jerry Blevins continued to throw the ball well in a clean 7th inning, just allowing a single hit and striking out 2 in impressive fashion, his ERA for the season is now 1.96. Grant Balfour found a little bit of his ability to walk hitters, but managed to side step the damage for a scoreless 8th. The man of the hour though is Brian Fuentes who put the first two batters on with a hit and a walk, but then seemed to catch a lucky break as Ben Revere popped up a bunt back to Fuentes for the 1st out (more like blocked the ball from hitting him in the face with his bat), and drew within an out of sealing the victory when Joe Mauer grounded into a fielder’s choice. A badly missed sinker to Josh Willingham was the fateful pitch that caused tonight’s misery.
AT THE PLATE: There was no hit parade to speak of tonight. The Twins pitchers were so busy walking batters it seemed like the A’s only swung the bats when they were failing to drive in runs in scoring situations. The highlight of the night with the sticks had to be the 2-2 showing from Coco Crisp who was dropped to 8th in the lineup tonight. Maybe taking some pressure off of him helped.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The dramatic nature of tonights loss was matched by the dramatic nature A’s fans reacted to that loss. It’s easy to overreact and call for everyone’s heads, but we have to be honest with ourselves, this is the team most people expected to see. They overachieved through the first 6 weeks of the season, and now the perennial injury issues, and the blatant lack of offensive talent on this team is catching up with them. I do think they can right the ship to some degree when Yoenis Cespedes returns (who looks absolutely locked in right now in Sacramento), and when Manny Ramirez makes his debut. It may seem impossible right now, but I think a .500 season is still within the realm of possibility. This is a long season of peaks and valleys, and the A’s are just crusing along the boring flatland right now. The A’s will hope not to serve as the medicine for another ailing ballplayer as Tyson Ross (2-5, 5.79 ERA) takes on Francisco Liriano (0-5, 8.47 ERA) who is making his first start back in the rotation after being banished to the bullpen. The A’s are a team ripe to be taken advantage of by a talented pitcher who needs a break, it’s time to conjure up some of that grittiness that had them playing .500 ball for most of the season so far.