One swing of Evan Longoria’s bat changed the complexion of Friday’s game, as his three-run homer in the fifth inning put the A’s in a hole they wouldn’t recover from in a 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
There have been so many momentum swings in so many games this season that have doomed the A’s. And their inability to recover from those blows has contributed to their struggles.
Comeback victories have been a hallmark of the A’s for the past three playoff seasons. Last year, their 13 victories when trailing after seven innings topped the major leagues.
This year, that come-from-behind magic is missing.
They are 5-16 in May. In those 21 games, just three times have the A’s rallied to tie or take a lead when trailing in the seventh inning or later. And of those three games, they only held on to win one of them. That came way back on May 1, when they trailed 5-0 in the eighth at Texas and scored seven runs that inning to win 7-5.
There have been games this season when the A’s have fought back and made it interesting late, only to lose by a narrow margin. But Friday’s loss was an example of an outcome being decided early. Longoria’s three-run homer erased a 1-0 A’s lead in the fifth. Down 3-1, Oakland loaded the bases with one out in the sixth but couldn’t break through on the scoreboard. They scratched out a run in the ninth to provide the final 5-2 margin.
Of course, a big reason for the A’s lack of comeback victories is the struggles of their bullpen. Other teams have added on to leads in the late innings and leaving Oakland’s hitters too much ground to make up. Again, Friday’s loss was an example. Evan Scribner surrendered a seventh-inning homer to Steven Souza Jr. and Arnold Leon served up Tim Beckham’s solo shot in the eighth to make it a 5-1 game.
And, also, there’s the Seventh Inning Factor. The A’s have allowed 40 runs in the seventh inning this season, more than any other team, and their pitching staff sports a 6.75 ERA in that inning. It’s tough to mount any comeback with opponents doing so much late-game damage so consistently.
A’s fans have gotten accustomed to furious late-game rallies, comeback victories and pie-in-the-face walkoff celebrations. There’s been a lack of those this season.
Then again, the A’s (14-30), who are 16 games under .500 for the first time since late September 2011, would take any win regardless of what path they take to get it.