OAKLAND – The subtle breakdowns and the bad-luck breaks during a game often get washed away and forgotten when a team pulls out a victory in the end.
Right now, the A’s can’t find their way to the win column with a road map. And, therefore, every mistake gets magnified and easily sticks in the memory bank.
Oakland did some good things in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Red Sox that opened a six-game homestand Monday. They also had enough things go wrong to trip them up once again.
“It’s the same story here. It’s getting tough to explain,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said afterward. “It seems like we’ve played this game so many times this year. It’s almost … it’s a little bit surreal.”
As a group, the A’s are game for a good battle. They took a lead Monday, then saw the Sox tie it. Took a lead again, the Sox tied. They went up 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, watched Boston score twice to take the lead in the seventh and then tied it again in the bottom half.
The seemingly inevitable heartbreak came in the top of the 11th, when former Giant Pablo Sandoval pounded a homer off Angel Castro on an 0-2 pitch that broke the 4-4 tie, sending the A’s to their sixth consecutive defeat.
“Whatever your pitch is, you wanna make sure you expand (and throw it out of the strike zone),” Melvin said. “He’s a bad ball hitter to begin with. On top of that, you need to expand a little more when you’re ahead.”
But there were other plays that caught up to the A’s.
In Boston’s go-ahead rally in the seventh, the A’s had a potential double-play comebacker with runners on the corners and one out. Evan Scribner made an accurate feed to shortstop Marcus Semien at second. But Semien couldn’t make a clean exchange to his throwing hand and deliver the throw to first, and Blake Swihart scored from third to put Boston ahead 4-3.
The Red Sox’s first run came in the fourth when Dustin Pedroia scored all the way from first on David Ortiz’s single to left-center. Could center fielder Billy Burns have gotten the ball in quicker? Semien’s relay throw home short-hopped to the plate for an error. A more accurate throw cuts down Pedroia. Or had catcher Stephen Vogt been able to cleanly field it and apply the tag, Pedroia is out.
Regardless of where the blame lies – and perhaps Pedroia simply deserves credit for busting it all the way around the bases – the end result of the play was destined to be a factor in the final outcome. Sure enough it was, as the A’s lost another one-run decision, their 11th defeat in 12 one-run contests this year.
“I don’t know how many it’s been,” starting pitcher Scott Kazmir said, “but there’s quite a few games like this, where you feel like we have control, then we lose the lead, then we’re battling back, getting quality at-bats in the late innings, and we just don’t pull out the win. It’s just frustrating as a team.”
A couple of teammates seemed to find a way to ease the tension late Monday night. Long after the final out, pitchers Sonny Gray and Tyler Clippard brought a pile of golf balls out to the field, set up near the A’s dugout and began launching them into the empty outfield seats.
With the A’s annual charity golf tournament coming up Thursday, it was a chance to get some practice hacks in. Or maybe it was simply some needed stress relief. Either way, it had to be more enjoyable than what took place between the lines for 11 innings.
Melvin said first baseman Ike Davis’ strained left quadriceps may keep him out a couple days but doesn’t appear serious enough to send him to the disabled list.