This seemed like a game both teams tried to lose. Or at least one that both teams were reluctant to win. Oakland came out with a 4 run first inning, and that should have been the end of the drama, but thanks to allowing 7 walks and one hit by pitch (guess who?), the Rays had opportunities to climb back in at several key moments. The Rays, however, failed in nearly all these opportunities.
An endless first inning
Have you ever had one of those days where a few small annoyances throw you off stride and then bigger things start to unravel? Maybe you start the day with burnt toast and a commute marred by a train running late. But then these minor setbacks make you distracted and suddenly you realize you've blown off a meeting with the boss, or you’ve entered the wrong numbers into your spreadsheet and now your company will lose millions and probably fire you.
Well, that’s what seemed to happen to Jake Odorizzi. He started off with some minor problems that quickly metamorphosized into big problems.
The first two Athletics hitters managed extended, double-digit pitch count at-bats, so 2 hitters into the game he had thrown enough pitches to be into the third inning. While one of these extended at-bats ended in an out, Burns managed a weak single. Josh Reddick followed with another single, also not very hard hit. In addition, Brian Gorman’s strike zone was, uh, interesting. But at this point Jake had two men on; had thrown nearly 30 pitches; and had no clue what, for this umpire, constituted a strike.
These may have been annoyances, but what followed was not: a three run home run for Kris Davis, and then a solo shot by Danny Valencia.
You know it’s not a good day when Dana Eveland is warming up in the 2nd inning.
The Rays managed to get a few of those runs back in the bottom of the first, stringing together two walks and two singles to plate two runs. There was opportunity for more, but Kevin Kiermaier was unable to deliver with bases loaded. Rich Hill struggled with his control (and also with Gorman’s strike zone). By the end of the first inning, the score was 4-2; about 45 minutes had elapsed, and the pitchers had thrown a combined 75 pitches.
The A’s loaded the bases in the top of the 2nd, further pushing Odorizzi’s pitch count, but this time Jake was able to end the inning without further damage.
Pitchers settle in (or at least one of them does)
After a blessedly short third inning, Odorizzi gave up a fourth inning solo HR to Marcus Semien, making it 5 - 2. The fourth inning would be his last.
Hill settled in for several quick innings, mixing his fastball with a very impressive curve. He finally faltered in the fifth, walking Jennings, and engaging in an extended at bat with Longoria, who then laced a double into left field corner. Taking off on the pitch, Jennings scored from first, and the score was 5-3. Longo hitting hard, Jennings running like the wind -- it's 2011 again!
But the two run deficit didn’t last long. Dana Eveland, who had replaced Odorizzi in the fifth, came back out in the 6th and surrendered a second homerun to Danny Valencia. Perhaps a second clean inning is too much to expect from Eveland, but this is what happens when your starter only gives you four innings. That made the score 6-3, which was the final tally.
The Rays, however, had their chances.
In the sixth inning, Souza opened with a lovely oppo double, and moved to third on a ground out. This brought up Tim Beckham in a situation that called out, desperately, for some kind of contact. Instead, T Bex took two pitches down the middle and then swung wildly at the third, earning consideration in the "worst at bat of the season" competition. Even our BA seemed stunned, asking, after the two takes, "what exactly is he looking for?"
In the seventh, two walks put men on first and second, but neither Longoria nor Pearce could move them along.
Then, most painfully, in the bottom of the ninth, the Rays had a terrific opportunity to tie the game. A pretty routine chopper to second base became an infield single for Kiermaier. Brandon Guyer was then – yadda, yadda, yadda – although this time I can’t image he was happy about it, as it hit him painfully around the wrist.
I was thinking that this would be the perfect time for Jennings to earn his redemption, but with the righty Madson closing, he was pulled for pinch hitter Logan Morrison. Morrison, the ever optimistic Dewayne noted, was 0-6 against Madson, so clearly he was "due." OK, so it would be LoMo’s turn to earn his redemption. He drew a walk.
Is there anything better than bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, and your face of the franchise is up to bat? A guy who, as Danny has told us, has been hitting the ball hard of late? And who delivered a stinging RBI double earlier in the game? Yes, this was a moment made for Evan Longoria.
And to his credit, he didn’t fail us. He was patient, waiting for his pitch, and when it came he smoked it – but just within the reach of third baseman Valencia, he of the two solo homeruns, who managed to snag the line drive for an out. A Steve Pearce fly out then ended the game.
It’s hard to claim "bad luck" when the other guys hit four home runs, but the two runners on base ahead of the Davis homerun got there with some pretty weakly hit singles. On the other hand, Longoria’s 9th inning line drive couldn’t have been hit much harder.
- Jennings drew three walks. Prior to tonight he had walked six times all year. Could this be the start of a better run for him?
- I am probably the last member of the Tim Beckham fan club. But he struck out three times tonight (and also walked once), looking pretty overmatched in each instance. It’s hard to imagine that he has a future with this club.
- Are the umpires hoping to encourage a movement toward electronic calling of balls and strikes? Tonight’s strike zone would suggest that. The Brooks Baseball plots are below. At least the terrible calls seemed to fall about equally on both teams.
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