After last night’s downright brutal beatdown at the hands of the Detroit Tigers it was really important for the A’s to get off on the right foot tonight. It wasn’t going to be easy considering the A’s were facing Justin Verlander tonight, they had their opportunities against him. Their first chance came in the 1st inning, with a runner on and 2 outs Yoenis Cespedes singled up the middle, the ball deflected off Jhonny Peralta‘s glove into center field and Seth Smith advanced to 2nd but continued running. It’s not entirely clear why he did that though, he must have thought the ball went all the way to Austin Jackson in center, but it didn’t. Peralta retrieved the ball, threw it to Miguel Cabrera at 3rd base, and Cabrera threw out Smith as he attempted to retreat to 2nd for the final out. This was an indication from the get go of how this game would play out. Verlander could’ve found himself in a tough spot, but instead found himself getting some Gatorade in the dugout because of a baserunning blunder.
Brett Anderson would respond with a scoreless bottom of the 1st inning, and would do the same in the 2nd inning. Then the fateful 3rd inning came to pass. For the 2nd straight inning the A’s stranded 2 runners on base and Anderson came to the mound to attempt his 3rd scoreless inning. In an attempt to disrupt the flow Anderson had going Andy Dirks bunted for a single to lead off the inning, Gerald Laird shocked the world with a bunt single of his own, Omar Infante doubled them both in after an Austin Jackson grounder put the runners in scoring position. An intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera followed, and an unintentional walk to Prince Fielder came after that. But the walk was the least of anyone’s concerns.
Anderson fell to the ground after delivering the pitch, Manager Bob Melvin and Head Trainer Nick Paparesta rushed to the mound and determined Anderson had to leave the game. It was later revealed he had suffered a strained right oblique muscle. You might remember that Bartolo Colon suffered the same injury earlier this year, and he was able to return in 2 weeks after his 15 day DL stint expired. The problem here is there are only 2 weeks left in the season, so it’s highly unlikely we’ll see Anderson on the mound again in the regular season at least. There’s no telling if or when he’d be available during the postseason if the A’s are able to weather this storm and still make it. At the moment Travis Blackley finds himself slotted in the rotation again. I wrote some time back that the A’s had a good problem with their surplus of pitching, and needless to say it’s that depth that has kept them in the race to this point. The A’s really cannot afford another blow to the starting rotation, now they’ll be starting 4 rookies and a guy who hadn’t won in the big leagues in 8 years before 2012.
The A’s mustered a couple runs in the 9th inning, but by that point the game was pretty well in hand. On the bright side Jim Miller‘s 3 innings of work really bailed out the bullpen, so the top relievers will all be available tomorrow. It’s easy to push the panic button repeatedly after this loss and the loss of Anderson, and I may have been guilty of pushing it once or twice at some point tonight. But after a little time since the game ended I’ve checked the standings and reminded myself that it is most definitely not over.
So many times the A’s have been counted out, or experts have pegged a certain loss as the beginning of the end, and perhaps this is just one more instance of that. They are running short on time though, so they to right the ship pretty quickly. So with the loss today, and yet another extra inning win by the Orioles in Seattle, the A’s fall back to the 2nd wildcard spot 1/2 game behind them. The Angels remain 3.5 games behind the A’s though, having lost to the Rangers tonight. The Rangers victory puts the A’s back to 4 games behind in the AL West. If they can somehow get that deficit back down to 3 or even 2 games by the time the A’s head to Arlington, they most definitely will have a realistic chance of catching them.
The A’s can get back on the right track tomorrow morning as Tommy Milone (13-11, 3.81 ERA) faces Anibal Sanchez (3-5, 4.19 ERA) as the A’s try to salvage a game in the Motor City. Sanchez is a very talented right hander, but the A’s are due to break out of this hitting funk, so perhaps they can take out their frustrations on him.