Is there a good living to be made in finding new ways to lose baseball games? The A’s, 5-4 losers to Tampa Bay on Sunday, seem be working under that premise.
After blowing leads of 3-0 and 4-3, Oakland’s inability to play baseball the way baseball is supposed to be played cropped up again in the seventh inning.
This time around it was an inability to defend against a bunt that did the A’s in. Tampa center fielder Mallex Smith was just trying to get something started for in a 4-4 game in the seventh inning. Oakland reliever Daniel Coulombe was quick to pounce on the ball, pick it up and throw it toward first base. Big mistake.
Or perhaps the mistake belonged to either second baseman Jed Lowrie or first baseman Yonder Alonso. Neither was anywhere near the base, Alonso having charged toward the ball after seeing the bunt and Lowrie rotating over to cover the base without having arrived.
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The Coulombe throw split between them, rolled into foul territory in right field and Smith wound up at third on what was ruled a single and Coulombe’s error. Either Coulombe should have held on to the ball or one of the fielders should have made it to first base, but there was no way Smith should have wound up at third.
Moments later he scored on a Corey Dickerson sacrifice fly, and that was the game, Oakland’s 11th loss in the last 16 games and 23rd in 32 road games this season.
The error was the A’s 62nd of the season in 63 games, by far the most in the big leagues. And it was the ninth by an A’s pitcher. Oakland hurlers made nine in 162 games last season, so things aren’t going in the right direction at all.
“It’s been frustrating,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin told The Associated Press.
Oakland did threaten in the ninth by putting two men on with one out. Chad Pinder singled to left, but pinch-runner Adam Rosales held up between second and third and hand to hold at third, leaving the bases loaded.
Jed Lowrie fouled out, leaving it up to Khris Davis, who already had two hits. Faced off with closer Alex Colome, Davis struck out on three pitches.
The A’s in general and catcher Stephen Vogt in particular, staked starter Jesse Hahn to a 3-0 lead. Vogt, who didn’t start the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader because manager Bob Melvin liked the matchup of Vogt against Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, made the hunch pay off.
The catcher came up with men on second and third in the second inning and delivered a two run single, scoring Alonso, who’d walked, and Ryon Healy, who had singled and taken second base on an error.
Two innings later, Alonso walked again and scored when Vogt doubled off Archer. Vogt came into the game 2-for-3 with a homer lifetime against Archer, a pitcher he used to catch when he was with Tampa Bay.
Hahn, who hadn’t won a game on the road in two years, seemed to be in excellent shape to end a streak of 10 starts away from the Coliseum without a win. But after getting the first two batters in the fifth inning to strike out, doubles happened.
Specifically, Daniel Robertson, Mallex Smith and Corey Dickerson all doubled. Those produced two runs, and a pop fly single from Evan Longoria tied the game at 3. Hahn struggled to get out of the inning, but he did strand runners at second and third.
“I have to do a better job to minimize the damage there,” He said. “Even after the first couple hits, I have to do something there to get that next out.”
Hahn seemed to have caught a break when Lowrie tripled to right and scored on Khris Davis’ high chopper that bounced over a drawn-in Rays’ infielder for the run that put Oakland back ahead 4-3. The lead, however, did not last long.
Reliever Liam Hendriks, who came in with a 1.64 ERA in his previous 20 games, was jolted by a Colby Rasmus homer to straightaway center field as the first man he faced, and the game was tied again.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.