Tonight’s game versus the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards was the first of a long stretch of tough games versus quality teams for the Oakland Athletics. While the Texas Rangers have cruised through a rather easy schedule of doormats during the month of August, the A’s have had a bit more difficult road. The beginning of this seven game road trip through Baltimore and Detroit was important for a number of reasons; they needed to set the tone and show that they had left the ugly homestand they just endured back in Oakland. They did not accomplish that tonight.
In fact, this game followed the formula of the two losses versus the Seattle Mariners earlier this week. They jumped out to an early lead, and were unable to hold that lead, committing costly mistakes along the way to aid the process. That is the heart of the issue right now for the Athletics, they simply aren’t playing sound baseball. When you make your mistakes at critical moments during the late innings of games like this, you will lose, plain and simple.
Brandon Moss kicked off the offense with an RBI single in the top of the first inning, and at the time it appeared that maybe they would be able to exorcise the demons of their recent past. Coco Crisp would add their second run with his 12th home run on the season, part of a 4 for 5 night with three runs scored. Brandon Moss would make another contribution with his 21st home run of the season. The A’s had a 3-0 lead, and Dan Straily appeared to be working through his early hiccups and was shutting the Orioles offense down.
Then the fourth inning happened. A lead off walk by Straily to mega-slugger Chris Davis set the table for the events forthcoming. Adam Jones tightened the game up with one swing on a two-run home run, but the damage wasn’t done. Two singles and a walk, with a strikeout mixed in set the table for Brian Roberts to turn the tables on the A’s with a grand slam that gave the Orioles a 6-3 lead. Straily would depart in favor of Jesse Chavez at that point, and the A’s would escape without any further damage. Straily’s line would be: 3.1 innings, 4 hits, 6 ER, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts.
The A’s would show some serious fight though after taking a devastating gut punch in the fourth. Coco Crisp set the A’s up for their rally with a lead off single, Jed Lowrie would follow with an RBI double, and Josh Donaldson with an RBI single. Eric Sogard would cap the rally with a two-run single with the bases loaded to put the A’s back on top at 7-6. But anyone watching this game had to know that wouldn’t be the final score.
Jesse Chavez did admirable work in relief of Dan Straily, he wouldn’t allow a hit in his 2.2 innings of work, but would be charged with an earned run after he was removed. Chavez walked Nate McLouth to start the inning, and was replaced by Ryan Cook. Cook would allow a single to Manny Machado, then a costly error on a Chris Davis ground ball by Eric Sogard opened the flood gates. A run scored on that play to tie the game, then Adam Jones would drive in the go ahead run on a swinging bunt ground out. They would tack on the final run on a Nick Markakis RBI single to take a 9-7 lead. The A’s would mount almost no threat in the final two frames as Tommy Hunter and Jim Johnson slammed the door shut.
With this loss the A’s fall to 3.5 games behind the streaking Texas Rangers who defeated the Chicago White Sox with ease tonight. The loss also pulls the Orioles to within just two games of the A’s in the race for the second wild card spot. Perhaps sensing the gravity of the situation the A’s are in, they will skip Tommy Milone‘s start tomorrow and move up Jarrod Parker and Sonny Gray to pitch the final two games of this series. The A’s are leaking oil right now, and their grip on a playoff spot is loosening with every passing day. The addition of Kurt Suzuki back into the fold will help stabilize things, but it’s clear this team needs help to get them pointed in the right direction before it’s too late.