Ryan Cook hands over the series finale to the Astros. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Cook entered Sunday’s game with a 3-2 lead, thanks to a Nate Freiman homer in the seventh inning. Facing Marwin Gonzalez, Ryan Cook delivered four consecutive balls. Nothing to worry about, it happens from time to time. Next up, Jon Singleton who takes four pitches to pop up in foul territory. Good, got a man out and nobody progressed. Third up, pinch hitter Marc Krauss who watches four balls whiz right past him. Now Ryan Cook has men at first and second and only one out. But Ryan Cook is good, there’s nothing to worry about. Robbie Grossman is up next and he will surely hit into a double play and end this game with an A’s victory, right? Wrong. He takes six pitches to draw his base-loading walk.
Now we’ve got trouble and that starts with T which rhymes with C and that stands for Cook. Now it’s time to go to Fernando Abad, the man who has allowed one inherited runner to cross the plate. All he’s got to do is get two outs with the bases loaded after virtually no warm-up in the bullpen. Spoiler alert, he doesn’t. Instead, Abad gives up a sac fly that brings in a run and now the game is tied. Next up is Jose Altuve. With a base free, he gets intentionally walked and reloads the bases for the next batter, Dexter Fowler, to take a five pitch, RBI walk of his own. All in all, five walks and two earned runs for Ryan Cook.
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At the end of the day, a fantastic outing by Jason Hammel, who pitched 6.2 innings with five hits, two runs and seven strikeouts, went to waste as Ryan Cook and Fernando Abad failed to do what was needed to secure their lead. Now to the complaining portion of my article.
First off, I rarely disagree with Bob Melvin. Almost never! But in a situation where you have a one run lead and no closer, shouldn’t you have two pitchers warming up? Nine of Ryan Cook’s first 12 pitches were balls. With two men on and only one out and a pitcher who clearly can’t find his location, it’s time to put in Abad. Melvin waited too long to pull the plug on Cook and didn’t give Abad enough time to warm up sufficiently.
My other disagreement with Melvin today was pinch hitting Alberto Callaspo in the bottom of the ninth. Callaspo is hitting .203 against left handed pitchers but Sam Fuld is hitting .270. I understand that you’re trying to position your defense if the game goes forward but you can worry about that later by replacing Fuld with Sogard in the tenth. Callaspo, since August, has been stinking up the place and Fuld has been your leadoff hitter in Coco’s absence quite frequently. Why not pull an available leadoff man off the bench instead of a 8 or 9 hitter. With Fuld pinch hitting and Crisp and Gentry batting behind, you’d have your three fastest players in that inning, a great way to manufacture runs.
Those are my only Melvin complaints. The rest of my complaints go to the players of my beloved Oakland Athletics.
You are letting the fans down. I don’t want to hear complaining about the Cespedes trade, locker room chemistry or funks. For the past six weeks you have been playing like last-place bottom feeder and the fact that you’re still the third best team in baseball speaks more to how well you did earlier in the season. Your fans, the greatest fans in baseball, have watched you lose 10 of your last 21 home games and 21 games since August 1st. It took you 52 games to get 21 losses and here we’ve seen you do it in 35. You were the best team in baseball for most of the season but in 26 games have given up 11 games in the standings. You now sit 7 games behind first place in a division that you dominated for most of the year.
This is not the fault of Billy Beane. This is not the fault of Yoenis Cespedes. This is not the fault of Bob Melvin. This team has been given the tools it needed to make 2014 the most memorable year in Oakland since 1990 and you’ve squandered it away with sloppy defense, average pitching and undisciplined at bats. Get your heads out of your funk and focus on winning games. This is not the team that started this season, it’s a better one. Is the chemistry different? Probably. But does that matter? No. The winners of three consecutive world series’ in the 1970’s all hated each other, got in fist fights and talked bad about each other off the field but they managed to play well as a team.
I don’t know what you need to do to right this ship but you are quickly playing your way right out of the playoffs. It took 26 games to drop 11 games. With 20 games remaining, you could still do a lot of damage. Call a player meeting, practice in the cages more, practice in the cages less, do whatever needs to be done to get this team back to where it needs to be. At the beginning of the season we thought you were going to get 100 wins. At the rate you’re going now, you may not hit 90.
I love this team. I want them to do well and I’ll be at several games between now and the end but you are making it very difficult to watch. You don’t look like you’re having fun. This is a game. You’re among the best in the world at playing it. Lighten up, relax, have fun and take us to a World Series.