And you thought Friday night’s walk off loss was brutal. At this point I feel no need to detail the back and forth nature of the first 9 innings of the game, or really the next 3 innings after that. In the top of the 13th inning behind 3 massive home runs (From Jonny Gomes, Yoenis Cespedes, and Chris Carter) the A’s took a 9-5 lead, but were reduced to the likes of Pedro Figueroa and Pat Neshek to close out the game. With a 4 run knockout punch having just occurred, one would assume that should be an easy task. But in New York, there are no easy tasks. Figueroa may have a bright future as a relief pitcher in the Major Leagues, but pitching in high leverage situations like today is not something he’s ready for. At this point though the game had devolved into a war of attrition, whichever team ran out of pitchers first would probably lose. Figueroa, Neshek, Tyson Ross, and Jesse Chavez were the lone pitchers left in the bullpen, so somebody had to come in to pitch the bottom of the 13th. Considering Figueroa’s control issues perhaps he was trying too hard to catch the strike zone, and the Yankees were ready to pounce.
Once Pat Neshek entered the game the bases were loaded with nobody out, the A’s needed a Jerry Blevins-esque Houdini act, but Jerry Blevins had already pitched. Neshek wild pitched one run in, allowed a sac fly for the 2nd run, and then for some reason was allowed to face Raul Ibanez who tied the game with his 2nd home run of the game. Neshek was able to regain his composure and retire the side with the game still tied, but the damage had been done, this game was as good as over. The A’s were retired without a hint of resistance in the top of the 14th, and Tyson Ross came in for the 14th. A couple singles and an intentional walk loaded the bases, and the A’s avoided the walk off for one batter as they forced out pinch runner Melky Mesa at home. But Eduardo Nunez would deliver the fateful blow when he cued a ball to Brandon Moss at first, it appeared to have some serious spin on it and Moss couldn’t field it cleanly, the winning run scored and the A’s had successfully unleashed their most heartbreaking loss of 2012.
It’s really hard to put into words what exactly happened today, and the hope is that there is not any lingering effects on the team. They say the key to being a good closer is having a short memory, right now that is the key for the Oakland Athletics.
It’s pretty understandable for fans to be ready to give up on this team, and some may have already done so. The A’s are not yet in a desperate position, they still maintain a 2.5 game lead over the Angels for that 2nd wild card spot, but the direction this season is going is convincingly downward. Unfortunately it won’t get any easier until next Friday. The Texas Rangers lost for the 2nd straight game to the Seattle Mariners, so the A’s remain just 4 games out in the AL West with those 7 games against the Rangers remaining. It’s a daunting task to think they could catch them still, but they have the opportunity to control their own fate regarding the division.
Tomorrow A.J. Griffin (6-1, 2.45 ERA) takes the mound in what could truly be the biggest game of the year, that is until the next one. Hiroki Kuroda (14-10, 3.26 ERA) will try to give the Yankees the 3 game sweep over the A’s, he’s a tough nut to crack and once he gets rolling he can really dominate. The A’s need to find a way to score against him, and it is imperative that Griffin pitches deep into this game for the sake of the bullpen. For the sake of all of us.